A case has been filed towards the federal government of Sierra Leone to overturn the nation’s loitering legal guidelines, which activists and legal professionals declare are discriminatory, and utilized by police to extract bribes from folks and sexually abuse ladies.
The legal guidelines are used to focus on poor and susceptible folks, say critics, and to topic them to prison sanctions for potential conduct quite than precise hurt brought on.
Girls arrested for loitering, and missing cash to pay bribes, have claimed they’ve been violently raped by law enforcement officials. Others say they’ve been coerced into having intercourse to keep away from spending the night time in a police cell.
Loitering has been on the statute books because the days of British rule and is punishable by as much as a month’s imprisonment. It’s a petty offence that’s outlined within the Public Order Act of 1965 and the Abstract Conviction Offences Ordinance of 1906.
Part 7 of the Public Order Act 1965 states that any particular person “loitering in or about any secure home or constructing, or … within the open air, and never having any seen technique of subsistence, and never giving a very good account of himself, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly particular person … and be liable to imprisonment for any interval, not exceeding one month”.
Oludayo Fagbemi, senior authorized officer on the Institute for Human Rights and Improvement in Africa (IHRDA), stated that the legal guidelines discriminate towards folks on the grounds of social standing: “In plenty of circumstances, it’s poor individuals who get caught. Individuals who promote issues to club-goers, individuals who must work late and stroll house at night time – they’re arrested simply because they’re on the road.”
The case, filed on the Ecowas court docket of justice in Nigeria on 21 April and introduced collectively by the IHRDA and AdvocAid, a civil society organisation working with women and girls caught up in Sierra Leone’s authorized system, alleges that the legal guidelines violate provisions below the African Constitution on Human and Folks’s Rights, comparable to the appropriate to equality and non-discrimination and the appropriate to freedom of motion.
“This case is concerning the state’s violation of the rights to freedom of motion, equality, and non-discrimination of poor Sierra Leoneans by legal guidelines that criminalise petty offences,” stated Eleanor Thompson, a lawyer engaged on the case. “It’s actually concerning the criminalisation of poverty as a result of the anti-loitering legal guidelines are used disproportionately towards the poor and marginalised.”
The federal government and police didn’t reply to a request for remark.