Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In an important legal proceeding, suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/37/22, brought forward by a former student of Njala University in Bo, Mohamed Morlu, will see its first hearing at the ECOWAS Court of Justice. The case will be presided over by Justice Edward Asante.
Morlu has taken the Government to court, alleging violations of his right to a remedy and access to justice. He is seeking financial compensation of USD 250,000, an order for the government to cover the cost of any future surgical intervention required to remove the bullet still lodged in his abdomen, and measures to prevent the use of excessive force by law enforcement agents during peaceful protests, including training and the provision of adequate law enforcement tools, among other requests.
According to the lawsuit, in November 2016, Morlu was a student when lecturers at the university initiated a four-month-long strike. In February 2017, the students organized two “peaceful protest” processions to the Ministry of Education office in Bo to meet with the Deputy Director of Education. Morlu participated in both protests.
During one of the processions, the students encountered a police roadblock after leaving the Anti-Corruption Commission office and heading to the Bo West Police Station. Unlike the police officers accompanying the procession, the officers at the roadblock were fully armed and were from the Operations Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police. The OSD Police officers at the roadblock attempted to stop the students, but the students proceeded to the Ministry of Education office.
While engaging with the Ministry’s staff, the students noticed two Sierra Leone Police pick-up trucks filled with fully-armed OSD officers, led by Mohamed Turay, also known as Yete Yete, the Southern Regional Commander of the OSD. The trucks approached the peacefully protesting students.
The lawsuit further states that, as some students threw stones at the policemen to prevent them from arresting journalists and students, Mohamed Morlu heard the police team leader, Mohamed Turay, give the command to his men to shoot. The policemen opened fire on the students, prompting Morlu and others to flee when they heard gunshots.
After running for approximately 400 meters, Morlu and a female classmate sought shelter at a nearby house to request water. Shortly after leaving the house, Morlu felt a gunshot in his upper abdomen. He had been shot by one of the OSD officers. Morlu lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital, although he does not know who transported him. He regained consciousness at the Bo Government Hospital.
Morlu remained at the Bo Government Hospital for 21 days before being discharged. Due to persistent acute abdominal and chest pain, he underwent Computerized Tomography (CT) scans at various medical centers, revealing that the bullet was still lodged in his upper abdomen. Medical advice received at the National Cardio-Thoracic Centre in Accra, Ghana, discouraged surgical intervention to remove the bullet, as it could potentially cause more harm than good.
The incident was reported to the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB), which found that excessive and unwarranted force had been used by the police to suppress the protest. The IPCB recommended forwarding the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions at the Sierra Leone Ministry of Justice for legal advice on prosecuting the suspects. As of now, no advice has been issued.
Justice Edward Amoako Asante will preside as the lead judge, assisted by two panel members, Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara and Justice Sengu M. Koroma. The first hearing is scheduled for today September 28th, 2023. ZIJ/28/9/2023