|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Human Rights activists in Sierra Leone are divided over exactly what charges a group of gay me faced after they were arrested by police during a party early this month.
Earlier in July there were reports that police had arrested a group of gay men at a party held at Congress Road Kissy, in the eastern part of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
According to reports, chaos began at the party venue when neighbours realized the party was a homosexual gathering. The neighbours began to throw stones and bottles into the compound where the party was going on. Following this incident a friend of the organiser’s went to report the situation to the police.
In a telephone conversation the party organizer, Francis Bangura said, “We reported the case to the police with hopes that we would be protected as constitutionally guaranteed. To our greatest surprise, when they arrived and succeed in stopping the neighbours from throwing the stones, they came into the party venue and arrested eight of us because they had been informed that we were gay and practicing sodomy, which is illegal in Sierra Leone.”
“The following day, the eight men were released on bail with the help of Hudson Tucker- Executive Director of Dignity association. I could not go to the police station because I feared being arrested as well,” Bangura said.
In a statement about this event posted on whycantwegetmarried.com, these men were alleged to have been charged with the offences of immorality, fornication, adultery, public nuisance and indecent acts against the order of nature.
However, Hudson Tucker, the Executive Director of Dignity association has expressed concern about the veracity of the statement issued by George Reginald Freeman, coordination of whycantwegetmarried.com in the West African sub-region.
Speaking to BTM he said, “The people were not charged as stated in the statement with immorality, fornication, adultery, public nuisance and indecent act against the order of nature. As far as I know the people were charged with disorderly conduct and the charge was dropped after I got to the station and the people released.”
Tucker expressed his concerns saying, “My concern with this statement is that if someone starts giving false information to the outside world it could have a backlash on all of us and maybe put our lives in danger when the police find out that we have being circulating incorrect information over the internet. I do not mind him making a statement on the issue but I do mind him giving incorrect information to the outside.”
Freeman later said that he was not physically present at the police station and that much of the information he had on the matter was derived from members of his organization who visited the men at the station.