Police using 60s law to justify inhuman treatment against jailed rap musician LAJ

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“Any law that is in contrast with the constitution is null and void” Bar Association

By Alpha Kamara-TVS News Washington DC

Spokesman of the Sierra Leone police ASP Brima Kamara has justified the laws they are using to detain and prosecute rapper and critic Alhaji Amadu Bah also called Boss LAJ. The musician’s arrest has attracted several condemnations from members of the public on how he has been treated since his arrest on Sunday, June 12.

ASP Kamara in an interview with Radio Democracy in Freetown said they are investigating the musician for alleged ‘robbery with aggravation’ after they received a complaint that he forced himself into a fuel station in Freetown, assaulted the station staff and forcefully drove off without paying for the gas. He said the police has the power to lock him up for a period of ten days maximum because its a serious or felonious offence. Hence, we are investigating, he said. “CAP 150 of the laws of Sierra Leone gives the police the power to institute standing orders. The 1964 police act also give us the mandate to develop SOPs in all our holding facilities to ensure safety, security and well being of inmates” he added.

ASP Kamara said the police did the right thing by following their SOP and refused to accept that they treated LAJ inhumanely. In that facility he stressed, the SOP says all detainees should be shaved and that was what the police did to him just like others.
Michaela Swallow, president of the Sierra Leone Bar Association reminded the police spokesman that, the supreme law of the land, the constitution states “Any law that is in contrast with the Sierra Leone constitution is null and void”. “The police has right to develop SOPs, but their SOPs should not be in contravention with the constitution. If those SOPs go against the constitution, then they are illegal”.

Swallow also reminded the police spokesman that those 60s laws are old and archaic and that’s why reforms have been made to reflect the current human rights trends of the modern world.
Lawyer Swallow also asked for an immediate independent investigation into the matter, and asked the police council to suspend all SOPs in holding facilities until they ensure they are in compliance with the constitution. She also urged the police to give LAJ fair access to his legal team and inform the public on the investigation.

Executive Director of the Center for the Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) Ibrahim Tommy urged the police and all other bodies concerned to investigative the matter swiftly without bias. The activist said the issue needs to be looked at with a clear and independent lens. “Come to think of it, LAJ is a musician, his hair or dreadlocks is part of his music brand and identity. Cutting it off is dehumanizing, affect his brand and unacceptable. What happens if he is found not guilty. Will they compensate him,” Tommy asked. The activist added that, the police SOPs needs to be human rights friendly in line with international best human rights standards to build on public trust.

Meanwhile, father of LAJ has called for the immediate release of his son. Pa Bah spoke to AYV TV on Sunday June 12.
“I want my son LAJ released immediately with his dreadlocks intact. During his naming ceremony, I killed two cows and shaved his head as demanded by customs and traditions. No one else has the right to shave him. If I cant have access to my son today Sunday June 19 or anytime soon, whatever happens will not be our responsibility” Pa Bah said.
Pa Bah also said he needs medical care for his son as it was alleged that he was injected by the police, probably to forcefully shave his dreadlocks.

The angry father also said Foday Sankoh a rebel leader was jailed for years until he died in detention. No one ever shaved him. Why should they do that to my son, he asked.

Police using 60s law to justify inhuman treatment against jailed rap musician LAJ
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