IPCB Ends Countrywide Focus Group Discussions

The Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB), with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday 29th August, 2018 ended its Countrywide Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) at district level on the implementation of the Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa, popularly known as the ‘Luanda Guidelines’.

In May 2014, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) at its 55th Ordinary Session in Luanda, Angola, adopted the Luanda Guidelines in response to the growing concern over human rights abuses and poor conditions of arrest and detention in police custody and pre-trial detention in Africa. The Guidelines aim to improve criminal justice systems in the continent by reducing the number of people who are wrongfully arrested and detained, and by improving the skills and knowledge of the police and prison workers.  

The FGDs which commenced on Monday 9th July, 2018 in Tikonko Town, Tikonko Chiefdom, Bo District brought together 464 discussants nationwide and were drawn from the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Civil Society, students, teachers, Inspectorate Department of Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Conference of Principals, Correctional Service Officers, Bike Riders, Drivers, Traditional Leaders, Inter-Religious Council, youth organizations, Media Practitioners, Gender organizations, among others. 

The Board Secretary of the IPCB, Emerlin George in her introductory statement at the very first gathering in Tikonko Town, gave participants an oversight of IPCB, being an independent civilian oversight agency, policing the SLP. She explained that the main components of Board’s activities rely on receiving and investigating complaints from the public throughout the country.

Emerlin George said the functions of the Board set out in Section 3 (1&2) of the IPCB Regulations, 2013 provide the Board with a broad mandate to not only receive and investigate complaints on specific cases of police abuses, but also to advise the SLP on ways in which incidents involving the police as provided in the Regulations may be avoided or eliminated. The Board Secretary added that in order for the Board to deliver on its mandate, the institution sees itself as not only a ‘listening organization’, but also a ‘bridge builder’ working towards bringing the police and the community closer.

In every district, the Communications Officer, IPCB, Amadu Femoh Sesay gave a detailed explanation on the Focus Group Discussions at district level, which is the fifth stage in the IPCB’s public outreach following the formal launch of the IPCB on Tuesday 20th October, 2015; Regional launches and Town Hall Meetings in Makeni, Bo and Kenema in November, 2015; Focus Group Engagements at District Level on Democratic Policing and its Benefits to Society in March, 2016; and the Town Hall Meetings and Youth Engagements in Bo, Kenema and Makeni in November last year. He pointed out that the aim of the FGD was to sensitize and raise awareness regarding the existence and provisions of the Luanda Guidelines, a Rights-based Approach to Conditions of Arrest and Pre-trial Detention in Africa and its implementation in Sierra Leone; and Democratic Policing.

The Regional Outreach Officers in their various locations told the discussants that the IPCB with the support from the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) and Open Society Foundation had developed a 5 Year Strategic Plan for the Implementation of the Luanda Guidelines in Sierra Leone, which it believed will help to strengthen human rights and the rule of law in the country.

The Countrywide Focus Group Discussions were held at the following locations and dates:

SOUTHERN REGION

NO. LOCATION DISTRICT DATE
  Tikonko Bo Monday 9th July, 2018
  Bandajuma Sowa Pujehun Tuesday 10th July, 2018
  Njala-Mokende Moyamba Thursday 12th July, 2018
  Tinhun   Bonthe Friday 13th July, 2018

EASTERN REGION

NO. LOCATION DISTRICT DATE
  Segbwema Kailahun Tuesday 17th July, 2018
  Tongo Kenema Wednesday 18th July, 2018
  Njiaima-Nimikoro Kono Friday 20th July, 2018

NORTHERN REGION

NO. LOCATION DISTRICT DATE
  Mile 91 Tonkolili Tuesday 24th July, 2018
  Kamabai Bombali Wednesday 25th July, 2018
  Kamakwie Karene Friday 27th July, 2018
  Alkalia Koinadugu Monday 6th August, 2018
  Mongobendugu Falaba Wednesday 8th August, 2018
  Rokupr Kambia Friday 10th August, 2018
  Lungi Port Loko Monday 13th August, 2018

WESTERN AREA

NO. LOCATION DISTRICT DATE
  Waterloo Western Area Rural Tuesday  28th August, 2018
  IPCB Headquarters Western Area Urban Wednesday 29th August, 2018

In each location, the discussants viewed the two hours frank discussions on the implementation of the Luanda Guidelines as a good initiative and hoped that provisions in the Guidelines would be domesticated into our national laws and implemented.

The FGD sessions were moderated by IPCB staff, namely; Emerlin George, Board Secretary, Amadu Femoh Sesay, Communications Officer, Mustapha Musa, Regional Outreach Officer-South, Vandy Bawoh, Regional Outreach Officer-East and Joseph Sesay, Regional Outreach Officer-North.

The theme for the programme was “IPCB as Trust & Confidence Builder, and How to Ensure Justice for All”.