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

The report, covering 2023, found no significant improvement in the human rights situation compared to the previous year. It documented credible reports of extrajudicial killings by security forces, including the deaths of opposition supporters during protests in June and September.

On June 25 (the day after the June 24 elections), at the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party headquarters in Freetown, police reportedly killed a party volunteer. On June 26, police killed four other APC supporters in the town of Masiaka. During protests on September 11, police reportedly killed two more individuals.

Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate medical care were cited as creating harsh and potentially life-threatening conditions in Sierra Leone’s prisons. The report also raised concerns about arbitrary arrests and detentions, including the continued presence of political prisoners.

Restrictions on peaceful assembly were another area of concern. While the right to assemble is enshrined in the constitution, the report noted a requirement for prior police approval of demonstrations, which critics say is used to stifle dissent.

The report further addressed the prevalence of gender-based violence, discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, and serious government corruption.

National elections in June were widely reported by domestic and international observers to have logistical problems and delays on election day and a lack transparency during the tabulation process. There were reports of attempted intimidation by alleged supporters of the ruling party at some opposition APC rallies. There were also reports of threats against and intimidation of domestic observers by government and government supporters.

While the government was acknowledged to have taken some steps to address these issues, the report highlighted the persistence of impunity for human rights abuses.