A case has been filed against the government of Sierra Leone to overturn the nation’s loitering laws, which rights advocates and lawyers claim are discriminatory, and used by police to extract bribes from people and sexually abuse women.
The laws are used to target poor and vulnerable people, and to subject them to criminal sanctions for potential conduct rather than actual harm caused, critics say.
Women arrested for loitering, and lacking money to pay bribes, have claimed they have been violently raped by police officers.
Others say they have been coerced into having sex to avoid spending the night in a police cell.
Loitering has been on the statute books since the days of British rule and is punishable by up to one month’s imprisonment. It is a petty offense that is defined in the Public Order Act of 1965 and the Summary Conviction Offences Ordinance of 1906.
Section 7 of the Public Order Act 1965 states that any person “loitering in or about any stable house or building, or … in the open air, and not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person ... and be liable to imprisonment for any period, not exceeding one month.”
Oludayo Fagbemi, senior legal officer at the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), said that the laws discriminate against people on the grounds of social status.
“In lots of cases, it is poor people who get caught. People who sell things to club-goers, people who have to work late and walk home at night — they are arrested just because they are on the street,” Fagbemi said.
The case, filed at the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice in Nigeria on April 21 and brought jointly by the IHRDA and AdvocAid, a civil society organization working with girls and women caught up in Sierra Leone’s legal system, alleges that the laws violate provisions under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, such as the right to equality and non-discrimination and the right to freedom of movement.
“This case is about the state’s violation of the rights to freedom of movement, equality and non-discrimination of poor Sierra Leoneans through laws that criminalize petty offenses,” said Eleanor Thompson, a lawyer working on the case.
“It is truly about the criminalization of poverty, because the anti-loitering laws are used disproportionately against the poor and marginalized,” Thompson added.
The government and police did not respond to a request for comment.
‘EATING UP SPRING’: Temperatures are 10oC to 15oC above the seasonal average and a city northwest of Madrid experienced its first ‘tropical’ May night on Friday Parts of Spain are experiencing their hottest May since records began, as a mass of hot, dry air blows in from Africa, bringing with it dusty skies and temperatures of more than 40°C. Spain’s state meteorological agency, Aemet, has warned of a weekend heat wave of an “extraordinary intensity,” with temperatures between 10°C and 15°C above the seasonal average and more akin to high summer than mid-May. “The early hours of 21 May have been extraordinarily hot for the time of year across a good part of the center and south of the peninsula,” Aemet said on Saturday. “In many places the
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Thousands of people were forcibly removed from their homes in the dead of night and all mentions of the incident were scrubbed from the Internet Thousands of COVID-19-negative Beijing residents were forcibly relocated to quarantine hotels overnight due to a handful of infections, as the Chinese capital begins to take more extreme control measures resembling virus-hit Shanghai. Beijing has been battling its worst outbreak since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 1,300 since late last month, leading city restaurants, schools and tourist attractions to be closed indefinitely. China’s strategy to achieve zero COVID-19 cases includes strict border closures, lengthy quarantines, mass testing and rapid, targeted lockdowns. More than 13,000 residents of the locked-down Nanxinyuan residential compound in southeast Beijing were
‘I’M STUNNED’: The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted, but a large outbreak might reveal previously unknown transmission routes, a virologist said Scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease’s recent spread in Europe and North America. Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa. However, in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden, Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who had not previously traveled to Africa. There are about 80 confirmed cases worldwide and 50 more suspected ones, the WHO said. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first cases on Friday. “I’m stunned by this. Every day I
INTERVENTION: A source said that a border patrol agent had rushed into the school without waiting for backup and killed the teen gunman, who was behind a barricade An 18-year-old man on Tuesday opened fire at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom, officials said. The attacker was killed by law enforcement. The death toll also included two adults, authorities said. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that one of the two was a teacher. The assault at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a US school since a man killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Outside the town civic center, where families were told to await news