Residents of the disabled community in Grafton (outskirt of Freetown) have seriously indicted officers of the Francis Alieu Munu led Sierra Leone Police (SLP) force, as perpetrating hate crimes against people with disabilities in the country.
|Deputy Police Chief Moigbeh
At a press conference summoned by the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI)) yesterday Wednesday 22nd June 2011, at the Western Area Human Rights Committee conference hall in Freetown, members of the disabled communities in Grafton explained that they were subjected to torture and various forms of degrading human rights abuses by the police and invading youths from other localities on Saturday 11th June and Sunday 12th June 2011 during deadly skirmishes between youths in Kossoh Town and Grafton.
It could be recalled that journalist Ibrahim Foday was stabbed to death during the said fracas, and accusing fingers are being pointed on a police officer as being the one that aided the criminal that stabbed the journalist.
“Polio persons, their wives, children and helpers were seriously brutalized by violent youths backed by OSD officers of the Sierra Leone Police,” Sylvanus Bundu, Chairman of the Disabled Community in Grafton, told newsmen, adding: “They inflicted serious injuries on polio persons with the use of machetes and other dangerous weapons.”
Police Chief Munu
According to Chairman Bundu, members of the disabled community were indiscriminately brutalized, arrested and dragged to police cells. He described the act of the police as sheer discrimination and physical prejudice associated with hate crimes.
Explaining his ordeal, a female member of the disabled community used words like malicious, wicked and inhuman to describe the alleged brutal attack meted on her by the police.
Esther Chaspo, who suffered from a double fractured leg in the attack and spent three nights in stinking police cells without medical attention said police officers launched an unprovoked attack on her and her son.
According to Esther, who happens to be the wife of a disabled person, she sent her son, Anthony Chaspo, to the stream on the fateful day to collect the clothes she laundered. “Shortly after Anthony returned from the stream and while I was hanging the clothes on a rope, police officers in the company of a few civilians arrived at the scene and the police officers were ordered by the civilians to arrest my son,” she explained.
|Bockarie: Victim of alleged police brutality
The police, she continued, refused to tell her the rationale behind the arrest of her son and “efforts to restrain them from unlawfully taking my son away landed me in hell”.
“One of the police officers started off the torture by hitting me with a baton and pushing me to the ground,” Esther said, adding that the officer went further to step on her leg with considerable force. “This act resulted in breaking my leg and as I was groaning in pain informing the officer that he had damaged my leg, the other officer commented that I was lucky that they did not kill me,” she alleged, adding that she was further hit with a baton.
“At this juncture, one Inspector Senesie Sesay ordered that I should be dragged and dumped into a waiting police truck,” the lady alleged, adding that the order was executed and her entire body was inundated with severe pains by the time they arrived at the Jui police post.
|Esther: Wife of a disabled man, who has been disabled as a result of alleged police brutality
According to Esther, the police did not only ignore her broken leg complain but continued to torture her at Jui, prior to bundling her again and dumping her into the police vehicle heading for the Kissy Police Division.
“At the Kissy Police Division, I spent three days inside the cell with the police completely ignoring my call for medical attention,” Esther disclosed in tears, adding that she was only allowed to receive treatment at a pharmacy three days after the incident, following persistent interventions of human rights activists and journalists.
Esther said she was later released and that doctors at the Emergency Hospital at Goderich have confirmed the seriousness of her double fractured leg.
She insisted that she can identify the police officers that attacked her if given the opportunity to do so.
Another victim who claimed to have suffered police brutality was a disabled person called Bockarie Filli. He explained that he was doing some laundering at the stream when a police officer called Sergeant Tamso scolded him from the back with accusations that he was part of the skirmish. “Before I could realize what was happening, the officer started hitting me with handcuff and dragging me,” Bockarie explained, adding that the manhandling continued until his entire body was covered with bruises and blood. The police officer, he alleged, continued to drag him and throw him inside a water well. “I was again removed from the water pit for a continuation of the inhuman torture,” he disclosed, adding: “The police, accompanied by civilians, took me to an unfinished two storey building and pushed me off”.
According to him, the police officers continued to hit his polio foot with provocations that it was the disabled foot that was responsible for the stubbornness of polio people. “Following the merciless beating, I was dragged like a dead dog and dumped into the police vehicle heading for Kossoh Town,” Bockarie said, adding that he was later transferred to the Kissy Police Division were he spent several nights in stinking police cells. “In my entire time at the Kissy Police Division no statement was obtained from me, neither was I given access to medical attention,” he disclosed in tears, while calling on authorities concerned to intervene and give them justice.
Another disabled person called Daniel Aruna made similar serious allegations against the police.
At the briefing, the members of the disabled community explained that majority of the twelve people currently in stinking police cells were disabled people from Grafton. They accused the police of openly taking sides with the youths from Kossoh Town during the deadly land fracas.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ibrahim Samura, who was at the press briefing, described the Saturday and Sunday incidents as unfortunate. He however insisted that the pronouncements by the disabled people were “mere allegations subject to investigation”. While assuring that the police were respecters of human rights, Samura said the matter would be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators for both the alleged crimes committed against the disabled people and the murder of the journalist would be brought to book.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.