Sierra Leone Bans Watchdog Group Over 2020 Prison Riot

The April 29, 2020 prison riots which led to the deaths of several people at the Freetown Correctional Centre, popularly known as Pandemba Road Prison, has been described as the deadliest in the history of prison unrest in the country.

Prison authorities in Sierra Leone have banned a local watchdog group Prison Watch over a report it did on the riots.

Prison Watch monitors prison conditions in the country sent a copy of the report to the prisons management for their response before publication, when it got the ban notice. The report is yet to be made public. 

Although official reports put the death toll at thirty, several Civil liberties groups believe the number could be higher due to the secrecy with which the government initially handled the incident.

Leslie Cole-Showers, the public relations officer of the Sierra Leone Correctional Services (SLCS), claimed that Prison Watch falsified its report.

“They formulated a falsified report about the April 29th incident in Pademba Road. They claimed that we buried dead bodies in the centre, after we opened our centre to a series of investigations by the CID and some human rights organisations including Prisons Watch. They could not find anything of that sort,” he said.

The government had accused opposition politicians of masterminding the unrest. But the opposition said the government staged it with the intention to assassinate a top opposition figure, former Defence minister Alfred Palo Conteh, who was at the time incarcerated in the overcrowded facility located in the west end of Freetown.

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 Although observers partly blamed the riot on the fear of Covid-19, government charged Conteh’s wife to court blaming her as mastermind of the riots.  


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