Lawyer concerned with police violation of Attorney-client confidentiality
by AL MansaraY
A human rights lawyer arrested several weeks ago in Sierra Leone after his client’s name appears in a UK online news media website has expressed fear for the erosion of rule of law in the country — after recently alleging that police officers usually do not allow for confidentiality between detained clients and their attorneys.
Former Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission boss and rights lawyer Ady Macauley says threat of detention by police officers specifically, at the Criminal Investigations Department, were common during the course of investigating Palo Conteh, Sylvia Blyden and Isata Saccoh.
Conteh and Blyden held political appointments in the previous government as Defense and Internal Affairs minister, and Special Executive Assistance to the president and Social Welfare Minister, respectively. Saccoh is the spouse of Conteh.
Macauley says, in some instances, if a client is advised during interrogations to exercise his/her constitutional rights — not to answer to certain questions — the attorney would be accused of interfering with the course of justice, and threatened with “arrest and charges of obstructing investigation.”
Such threats he says, interferes with the intended effective representation of clients by attorneys and, therefore, in conflict with judicial safeguards entrenched in the constitution for the protection of those accused of criminal misconduct.
“Obviously, when you look at the constitution under Section 23, you know, anyone that is accused of any offense that has been charged to court, has the right to a fair trial. Or, if, in the instance of you been investigated under section 17, you have a right to counsel…in private. That was not accorded us,” Macauley says.
Macauley accused law enforcement personnel of infringing on the privacy and privilege conversations between attorneys and detained clients.
“Whenever we are with our clients, we were speaking to them within earshot of police officers standing there; listening to every little bit of communication that we were having with our clients,” Ady Macauley says.
This lack of confidentiality between attorneys and clients perpetuated by the police, he says, was contrary to Section 17 and subsections 2b of the constitution — and thus, hinders efficient legal representation of accused persons.
“Basically, it impedes your communication. Because it is not everything that you will want to talk in the presence of the investigators or people close to the investigation. So, it limits your ability to effectively represent and advise your client,” he says.
Macauley did not give a direct instance when communication between himself and a client was directly interfered with by the police.
However, he concurred with a colleague’s previous allegations on social media that she was threatened with “arrest” and “charges of obstruction of justice” by CID boss.
Wara Serry-Kamal, attorney for Saccoh says CID boss tries to “intimidate” her client and when she tries to intervene, she was threatened.
Sierra Leone Bar Association Sec. Gen. Abdul Kamara says Serry-Kamal did not report her encounter to the executive.
In mid-May, the bar association expressed dissatisfaction in a letter to the Inspector General of Police concerning issues such as: Macauley’s “invitation” and, “deprivation of suspect’s access to legal representation during detention and obtaining of statements.”
Police spokesperson Superintendent Brima Kamara says he was not aware of such a letter to the police.
“I’m not aware, honestly, about the complaint they are making. I’m also not aware of a letter they could have sent,” Kamara says over the phone.
He promised to give an update Wednesday but several calls to him were not answered nor returned.