Re: Harry Yansaneh (deceased), human rights advocate
To: President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
From: Monique Pongracic-Speier
LRWC has learned from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of some recent but distributing developments in the case of the death of Mr. Harry Yansaneh, a human rights advocate and former acting editor of the independent newspaper For di people.
As each of you undoubtedly knows, on May 10, 2005, Mr. Yansaneh was severely beaten. He died on July 28, 2005, due to complications from his injuries. Suspicion in Mr. Yansaneh’s beating fell upon a group of men allegedly hired by or related to Member of Parliament, Mrs. Fatmata Hassan. An inquest into Mr. Yananeh’s death was completed on August 26, 2005 and returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter. Arrest warrants were issued against Mrs. Hassam and others. Several arrests were made (including the arrest of Mrs. Hassam), and the Sierra Leone Police asserted that they were collaborating with Interpol for the immediate extradition of others believed to be in the United Kingdom. Those arrested were released on bail on August 30, 2005.
On November 7, 2005, we understand that a news conference was organised between members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (“SLAJ”) and officers of the Law Department of the Ministry of Justice. We understand that Mssrs. Carew and Kaikai were present at the news conference, along with the Director of Public Prosecutions; Mr. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, President of the SLAJ; and numerous journalists.
LRWC is informed that during the news conference, Mr. Carew read out a letter from the Chief Justice, Head of the Judiciary. We understand that the Chief Justice advised that the coroner in charge of the inquest into Mr. Yansaneh’s death, Mr. Adrian Fischer, had not met certain requirements in his report. In particular, the Chief Justice reportedly said that the inquest report had not included signed testimonies from the witnesses, as required by law. Mr. Carew is reported to have said that, due to the deficiencies described by the Chief Justice, suspects in Mr. Yansaneh’s death could not be charged to the court.
LRWC is concerned that the deficiencies in Fischer’s report are derailing the proper investigation of Mr. Yansaneh’s beating and death. I write to urge you to ensure that the investigation into Mr. Yansaneh’s death is carried to completion, and that those responsible are prosecuted according to the applicable criminal law, and commensurate with their actual degree of responsibility. By completing the investigation and prosecution, Sierra Leone will send a signal to the global community that it will not tolerate a culture of impunity for gross violations of human rights, regardless of the identity of the suspected perpetrators. Indeed, completion of the investigation and prosecutions will signal a willingness to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with domestic and international law.
In closing, LRWC urges you to take those steps necessary to remedy the deficiencies in the investigation to date, to move forward with the prosecution of Mr. Yansaneh’s killers and the compensation of Mr. Yansaneh’s survivors.