Sierra Leone: Justice for Women Who Kill

Title: Justice for Women Who Kill Year: 2017 Summary: Opinion Piece written by our board member Sabrina Mahtani about a woman who has not received her appeal judgement for the murder of her partner. This comes 7 years after AdvocAid placed the appeal. Aminata has been in prison since she was 17 years old. Aminata* was only 17 years old when she was arrested for killing her former boyfriend eight years ago. She was sentenced to death for murder in November 2010 and feared each day she would be executed before her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the government on Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Day on 27 April 2011. A local NGO, AdvocAid, filed an appeal for her in 2010 but Aminata is still waiting for her appeal judgment almost 7 years later. She, like many women behind bars, are often forgotten and overlooked. Aminata is from the Eastern region of Sierra Leone, Kenema, rich in diamonds. She is an orphan, is illiterate and did not go to school. Aminata was in a relationship with Foday* but left him as he used to beat her on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Foday lived in the same compound as Aminata as he was the landlord’s son and he used to harass her to continue the relationship. One morning in September 2009 it all got too much for Aminata. Foday was beating her with a rubber pipe and she stabbed him with a knife to protect herself. She was arrested by the police and detained for several days. AdvocAid hired a senior female lawyer to represent Aminata in court. She...

New leadership for AdvocAid

Following the celebration of our 10 year anniversary last year and winning the Clifford Chance Access to Justice Award, which includes 500 hours of pro bono support from legal and organisational experts, AdvocAid would like to share news of developments for the organisation in 2017.   WELCOME TO TWO NEW BOARD MEMBERS AdvocAid is pleased to welcome two new board members, Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus and Camilla McArthur, to the organisation. Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus is Policy Manager at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). She is responsible for leading the organisation’s work on public policy issues impacting immigrants and refugees. Lisa has worked in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Ghana previously, and she brings a strong background in advocacy and research to AdvocAid. Camilla McArthur has over 10 years of experience in supporting civil society organisations develop their organisational and project management capacity, expertise she will contribute to AdvocAid’s development. Camilla has worked with organisations with global reach and NGOs based in Tanzania, Senegal, Morocco, and Southeast Asia. “We are delighted to have Lisa and Camilla joining AdvocAid. They bring new skills, experience and passion for women’s rights, which will strengthen the governance and strategic vision of the organisation,” said Board Chair and co-founder, Sabrina Mahtani. THE SEARCH FOR A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR In June, our Executive Director, Ms. Simitie Lavaly Zorokong, will be stepping down from her role after more than six years working with the organisation. While Simitie is leaving the organisation to further develop her career, she will continue to support AdvocAid in a voluntary capacity. Simitie has worked for AdvocAid since 2009, starting as a paralegal...
AdvocAid holds nationwide literacy class graduation in Female Correctional Centres

AdvocAid holds nationwide literacy class graduation in Female Correctional Centres

    On 8th and 15th September 2016, AdvocAid coordinated and celebrated the graduation of newly empowered female inmates in Makeni, Kono, Kenema and Freetown Female Correctional Centres. A total of 42 inmates were graduating from an intensive education programme run by AdvocAid and facilitated by EducAid, which gives thorough adult literacy & numeracy classes to inmates throughout the year.   AdvocAid seeks to stop the cycle of illiteracy by delivering literacy classes to women in detention, providing them with stronger prospects and a brighter future upon release. The classes are delivered by AdvocAid’s educational partner, EducAid. EducAid teaches three comprehensive and intensive classes per week for the different literacy levels, on a termly basis, with a graduation upon completion. The classes take place within correctional centres across the country in Freetown, Makeni, Kenema and Koidu City (Kono).   For this momentous event, 108 people in Freetown Correctional Centre gathered together in the heat of the sun to celebrate the graduation of 23 women. AdvocAid’s Programme Manager Julie M. Sesay introduced the purpose of the graduation and welcomed everyone profusely. Guests included the Executive Director of EducAid Miriam Mason Sesay, British Council Country Director  Simon Ingram – Hill, EducAid teachers, correctional centre staff, media personnel and all inmates.   In her opening statement, AdvocAid Executive Director Simitie Lavaly said that the training will serve as a key way for these women to integrate into society. This was followed by EducAid Executive Director Miriam Mason-Sesay, who in her statement emphasised how the inmates should never give up and that education was the way forward. She used her own life story to...

Day of the African Child: AdvocAid calls for better child protection in the justice sector

In partnership with:    CHILDREN AND JUVENILES BEHIND BARS – In Sierra Leone’s justice system, children and youth are usually not treated any differently than adults. They often spend excessive time behind bars without charge – considered guilty until proved innocent. Detention is often the first resort for offences committed by children. In late May 2016, AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, visited the remand home for juveniles in Bo on an unannounced monitoring visit. Here she met 21 children under the age of 18 – including one 10-year old boy charged with murder – held in a dark, unmaintained detention facility with poor sanitation facilities and too few mattresses. Two young girls were also detained at the remand home, but there is no gate separating the girls’ and boy’s dormitories and no female member of staff. The remand home is massively under-funded, and staff members stated that they lack the resources to refurbish the facility. The conditions in the Bo Remand Home clearly violate the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), the United Nation Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) as well as procedures for child protection outlined in Sierra Leone’s 2007 Child Rights Act and the Children and Young Persons Act 1945. HELP US IMPROVE CHILD JUSTICE – On the Day of the African Child 2016, AdvocAid joins forces with Save the Children to upgrade detention facilities in the Bo Remand Home. We are mobilising our resources and connections to repaint the walls...

AdvocAid Celebrates Independence and 10 Years of Access to Justice

26 April 2016: AdvocAid is celebrating Sierra Leone’s 55th Independence Day with girls, women and staff in the country’s Correctional Centres and Remand Homes, highlighting the continued need since Independence to improve detention conditions for women and girls. AdvocAid staff, alongside representatives from human rights organisations and government institutions, will be visiting Correctional Centres and Remand Homes in Freetown, Makeni, Kono, Kenema, Bo and Port Loko. AdvocAid provides legal aid, legal rights awareness and welfare support to women and girls in conflict with the law in all six towns. The visits will involve the distribution of Ebola prevention materials, celebratory food and recreational games; additionally, at Bo Correctional Centre, AdvocAid will be supporting the rehabilitation of a water well, due to a critical lack of access to water. Although Sierra Leone received the all clear from Ebola on 17 March, there continue to be cases in neighbouring countries, and the Correctional Service must continue to safeguard its inmates and staff from an outbreak. The Ebola prevention materials have been generously funded by a grant from GlobalGiving. As well as celebrating 55 years of independence, these events will commence AdvocAid’s 10 Year Anniversary celebrations. AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, comments: AdvocAid started working with women in prison 10 years ago, so we see today as a day for joint celebration in Sierra Leone – 55 years of Independence, and a decade of working with the Correctional Service to support women and girls in conflict with the law. We are delighted to be sharing this day with the women and girls that we support, as well as our colleagues across the Correctional...

Imprisoned for Debt? AdvocAid Says it is Time to Reform the Larceny Act 1916

30 March 2016: AdvocAid are today calling for reform to Sierra Leone’s Larceny Act – an act that leads to many Sierra Leonean women being illegally imprisoned for debt. Women owing as little as Le 250,000 (around $60) have been imprisoned for up to three years. This call comes one week after AdvocAid and the British Council Sierra Leone held a policy debate on the topic, titled Decongesting Correctional Centres: lifting the criminalising of owing a debt under the Larceny Act 1916, as part of their co-delivered EU funded Justice Matters Programme. Over the two-year programme, it has become increasingly evident that women in Sierra Leone still suffer disproportionately from the lack of actions taken to decriminalise debt. AdvocAid – a Civil Society Organisation providing free legal aid to women in Sierra Leone – highlight that ‘fraudulent conversion’ is an offence contained in section 20(1)(iv)(b) of the Larceny Act 1916. It is, intended to criminalise the use of property for purposes other than that for which it was given and/or intended. It is AdvocAid’s experience that interpretations of fraudulent conversion in Sierra Leone have now evolved far beyond this original definition, distinctly disadvantaging women. Charges are increasingly applied to situations where a debtor is unable to repay a sum of money they had initially agreed to pay the complainant. It is not the first time that AdvocAid have raised this issue, releasing the ‘Women, Debt and Detention’ report in 2012. One of AdvocAid’s clients is Saptieu (28), a trader. She owed her supplier Le 2,400,000 ($600) for goods taken on credit. As she was unable to pay the full amount on...