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The United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has published its annual report on human rights in Sierra Leone, emphasizing ongoing concerns regarding arbitrary killings, harsh prison conditions, and restrictions on freedom of assembly.

The report, pertaining to the year 2023, indicated no substantial progress in the human rights landscape compared to the preceding year. It detailed credible accounts of extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces, including the fatalities of opposition sympathizers during demonstrations in June and September.

On June 25 (following the June 24 elections), a party volunteer at the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party headquarters in Freetown was reportedly slain by the police. Subsequently, on June 26, law enforcement officers took the lives of four other APC supporters in the town of Masiaka. Moreover, two individuals were allegedly killed by the police during protests on September 11.

The report also highlighted overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate healthcare as factors contributing to severe and potentially life-threatening circumstances within Sierra Leone’s prisons. Additionally, it expressed apprehensions about arbitrary arrests and detentions, including the continued incarceration of political dissidents.

The imposition of restrictions on peaceful gatherings was also a subject of worry. Despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to assemble, the report pointed out a necessity for prior authorization from the police for demonstrations, a practice critics argue is utilized to suppress opposition.

Furthermore, the report delved into the prevalence of gender-based violence, discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, and widespread governmental corruption. The national elections held in June were widely reported by both domestic and international monitors to have encountered logistical challenges and delays on the day of the election, as well as a lack of transparency during the vote tallying process. Instances of alleged intimidation by supporters of the ruling party at opposition APC gatherings were reported, along with threats and intimidation directed towards domestic observers by government officials and their backers.

Despite some measures taken by the government to tackle these issues, the report underscored the lingering culture of impunity for human rights violations.

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