FREETOWN, June 4 Sierra Leone's Human Rights
Commission announced on Monday it had launched a probe into the
police response to a strike by employees of iron ore miner
The action by armed police between April 16-18 in the town
of Bumbuna in central Sierra Leone left one woman dead and at
least six injured.
"The police are reported to have shot live bullets and
teargas canisters indiscriminately sending the whole township
into panic and pandemonium," a notice from the body published in
newspapers in the capital Freetown said.
"There were also reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions
in which the police are reported to have broken into private
homes, arrested the occupants and carted away their property."
The Human Rights Commission inquiry is scheduled to last for
four months and can make recommendations for prosecution.
The April rioting began with a protest over pay and
conditions, with locals aggrieved by what they said were the
higher wages received by expatriate staff. There have been no
serious disturbances reported since then.
Bumbuna lies 15 km (10 miles) from African Minerals'
Tonkolili mine and is home to many workers. African Minerals
made its first trial shipment of iron ore from Tonkolili in
November last year.
The IMF estimates shipments from the mine will push GDP
growth in Sierra Leone to 35.9 percent this year, one of the
highest rates in the world.
African Minerals said by email it would not be appropriate
for it to comment on the inquiry into the police actions. Sierra
Leone police spokesman Ibrahim Samura said he trusted the
inquiry would be "very, very impartial, very, very objective".
Sierra Leone will hold a presidential election in November.
The poll comes a decade after the end of the country's bloody
civil war and will be a crucial test of recovery.
In February leaked documents showed the police had purchased
$4.5 million worth of weaponry, including heavy machine guns and
grenade launchers, prompting the U.N. Security Council to warn
the government against over-reacting to security threats.
In the end an agreement was struck for the heavy weapons to
be transferred from the police to a unit of Sierra Leone's army
that is to deploy to Somalia as African Union peacekeepers.