Democracy and rights
Democracy seems to be about to take root in
the country hard hit by the civil war that raged between
1991 and 2002. But opposition parties still find it
difficult to assert themselves and sexual violence is a
The election in 2018 was considered by foreign
election observers to be largely correct, despite the
fact that the election movement was bordered by
fractions. Although the constitution guaranteed
everyone's right to form parties, the then opposition
party SLPP was harassed in various ways by the APC-led
government. When SLPP itself came to power after the
election, it responded with the same coin (see Current
policy). By and large, citizens are free to choose which
party they want to vote for, although traditional and
religious leaders still have a major influence on how
many Sierra Leoneans vote.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Sierra Leone, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but
it happens that the regime denies permission for planned
demonstrations or dissolves peaceful demonstrations by
Voluntary organizations have until now been able to
operate unrestricted in the country, but a new law
forces all organizations to renew their license with the
government every year. Human rights organizations fear
that the law will affect their ability to criticize the
Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution
and is usually respected. Same-sex sexual relations are
prohibited by law and can provide imprisonment for up to
ten years. Discrimination against LGBTQ people is
Sexual violence against women is a major problem.
According to police statistics, the number of reported
sexual offenses increased from 4,700 in 2017 to more
than 8,500 in 2018. President Julius Maada Bio announced
in 2019 a "national disaster" to deal with the problems
Modern laws give women basically the same inheritance
rights as men, but in practice it looks different. A
woman who loses her husband risks her husband's brothers
taking her home and the possessions she has had. Women
are also discriminated against in the labor market and
find it difficult to obtain loans. Women's participation
in politics is still low. In 2018, twelve percent of
the members of Parliament were women (see Social
Freedom of expression and media
Each person is relatively free to express differing
opinions, but according to human rights organizations,
authorities often monitor what is written in social
media. During Election Day 2018, the authorities shut
down the internet.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the
Constitution, but is rubbed to the brim by
hard-to-interpret rules and political interference.
Violence and threats against journalists exist.
President Julius Maada Bio, who took office in 2018, has
promised to tear down the laws that make it possible to
prosecute journalists, but in the summer of 2019 this
had not yet happened. In 2019, Sierra Leone ranked 86th
on Reporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in
180 countries. A clear deterioration since 2013 when the
country was in place 61.
Corruption is extensive at all levels of the social
apparatus. Not until 2005 did Sierra Leone adopt a law
against money laundering, but the IMF and the World Bank
have found so many deficiencies in it, and how it is
applied, that it is considered virtually ineffective.
One explanation is likely that many people in high
societal positions are themselves involved in
"laundering" illegal income - generally from illegal
Sierra Leone is ranked 129th in Transparency
International's index of expected corruption in 180
countries. Recently, however, an anti-corruption
authority has been created that has made some progress:
some 20 officials have been prosecuted, including the
former mining minister.
In the spring of 2019, Sierra Leone's former
president Ernest Bai Koroma and his government were
accused of wasting more than a billion dollars during
their time in power from 2007 to 2018. The Ministry of
Finance published a report, funded by British aid, which
reported irregularities in public procurement (see
Judicial system and legal security
According to the Constitution, the judiciary should
be independent but in practice is under severe pressure
from politicians and strong individuals, especially when
it comes to corruption. The courts are considered
corrupt and ineffective.
The system is largely based on the British judiciary
but has also captured the impression of traditional
African legal thinking and Islamic ideas. There are also
local courts that adjudicate under traditional law in
cases not covered by the ordinary justice system.
In prisons there is great overcrowding and
substandard conditions. Detainees often get unreasonably
long on trial. There are major problems with corruption
within the police force, which may require payment to
investigate crimes. There are reports that it is
possible to rob people out of the way by "buying" a
crime suspect from the police.
Sierra Leone still has the death penalty, but no
execution has taken place since 1998 and discussions are
ongoing to abolish it. In 2014, the president converted
five death sentences to life sentences; the same year,
however, three new death sentences were sentenced.
In 2003 and 2004, a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission collected testimonies of abuse during the
war. However, its report on corruption and mismanagement
as the main causes of the war is not considered to be of
such importance. Recommendations for damages to the
victims of the war have not been heeded.
In collaboration with the United Nations, the
Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone was
established in 2002 to investigate the highest level of
responsibility for the crimes committed after November
30, 1996, when the government and the rebel movement
Revolutionary United Front (Revolutionary United Front,
Ruf) (see Modern History) concluded a peace agreement
and the rebels were granted amnesty. The court in
Freetown differed from the UN courts of Rwanda and
ex-Yugoslavia in that both the UN and the country
appointed judges and prosecutors, with a barely
numerical overweight for the foreign lawyers.
The Special Court was active between 2003 and 2009.
Three leaders of Ruf were sentenced to prison for
between 25 and 52 years, while the two highest leaders
of the movement died before the trial ended, three
people with links to the military junta AFRC (see Modern
History) were sentenced to between 45 and 50 years in
prison. Two representatives of the Kamajormilis,
officially called the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), first
escaped with shorter sentences but were sentenced in the
higher court to 15 and 20 years in prison respectively.
Also Liberia's former President Charles Taylor was
indicted for active involvement in the war. The trial
against him was conducted in the Netherlands and ended
in 2011. The following year, the court sentenced him to
eleven counts, including for helping and facilitating
war crimes in Sierra Leone, and he was sentenced to 50
years in prison. The verdict included crimes against
humanity, murder, rape and exploitation of child
soldiers. According to the judge, Taylor had known early
on the terror campaign against the civilian population
planned by Ruf and its allies, but he still continued to
provide them with weapons. However, he was not
personally considered to have ordered the crimes. He
appealed the verdict but it stuck.