EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 51/10/95
EXTRA 128/95 Death penalty / Legal concern 30 October 1995
SIERRA LEONE Three soldiers sentenced to death
Amnesty International is concerned that three soldiers sentenced to death by
a military court could be executed in the near future. They have no right
of appeal to a higher court.
Three border guards, whose names Amnesty International does not yet know, were
sentenced to death by firing squad on 26 October 1995 after being convicted
by a court-martial of murder, conspiracy and robbery. They were accused of
shooting three civilians during a raid on a village in the north of the country
in March 1995 and looting rice and other food.
Trials before courts-martial allow no right of appeal to a higher court.
Courts-martial are composed of a panel of senior military officers chaired
by a High Court judge who advises the panel on points of law. Sentences have
to be confirmed by the head of state.
Conflict in Sierra Leone between an insurgent force and government soldiers
continued after the National Provisional Ruing Council (NPRC) came to power
following a coup in April 1992. By 1994 the identity and motives of those
involved in the conflict were no longer clear. The conflict had developed
into a campaign of terror by both government soldiers and rebel forces directed
primarily at unarmed and defenceless civilians.
Following persistent claims during 1994 that current and former soldiers were
responsible for attacks on civilians, as well as looting, robbery and extortion
both within and outside areas affected by the conflict, the NPRC admitted
publicly that there were serious problems of indiscipline in the army. In an
attempt to address defection and unlawful activities by soldiers, the NPRC
resorted to the use of executions after legal proceedings which do not conform
to international standards for a fair trial.
Twelve soldiers, including a 77-year-old warrant officer, were executed on
11 and 12 November 1994 after being convicted by courts-martial in the capital,
Freetown, of charges which included collaborating with rebel forces, armed
robbery and murder. On 11 January 1995 a senior military officer,
Lieutenant-Colonel Chernor M. Deen, was sentenced to death after being convicted
of aiding and communicating with rebel forces; his sentence has not been carried
out. None had the right to appeal against conviction and sentence to a higher
Amnesty International unconditionally opposes the death penalty as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading punishment. The use of the death penalty is contrary to the trend
in Africa and countries around the world towards its abolition. Nineteen states
in Africa and a majority of states in the world have abolished the death penalty
in law or in practice.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- expressing concern about reports that three soldiers were sentenced to death
by a court-martial on 26 October 1995;