The military junta in Sierra Leone has created a “climate of fear and intimidation” that includes torture and arbitrary killings of civilians, Amnesty International says.
The London-based human rights organization, in a statement issued Friday, noted that the junta had agreed to give up power next April but said that before then, it must release political prisoners and stop targeting those who criticize it.
There was no reaction from Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma, who led the bloody May 25 coup against the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. After months of resistance, Koroma on Oct. 25 bowed to international pressure and signed an accord clearing the way for Kabbah’s return to power in six months.
The agreement, mediated by leaders of five neighboring West African countries, guarantees that Koroma and his followers will not be prosecuted for the coup. Koroma has said his acceptance of it proves his commitment to human rights and democracy.
Amnesty said that even with the promised handover, “the climate of fear and intimidation which has marked the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council’s five months in power will continue unless the AFRC takes urgent measures to stop arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, ill-treatment and deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians.”
It said several journalists whose reports were critical of the coup had been detained and that many other people had been forced to flee the country to avoid being persecuted for their views.
The president of the Sierra Leone human rights group Civil Liberties Congress, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, was tortured after his arrest in August and has since left the country, Amnesty said.
Koroma said he staged the coup to prevent the country from sliding back into a civil war with the rebel Revolutionary United Front army.