Sierra Leone


The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2021/22. This report documented the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2021, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty International’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. 


The president signed the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill into law. The police used excessive force against protesters and other people. The government failed to protect the rights of LGBTI people. Sexual and gender-based violence remained prevalent. Sierra Leonians denounced poor sanitation in hospitals, and maternal and infant mortality rates were high.


In January, 246 prisoners, including political opponent Alfred Paolo Conteh, were released following a presidential pardon. Restrictive measures used to control the Covid-19 pandemic intensified. Sierra Leone accepted 216 of 274 recommendations made under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

Death penalty

On 23 July, parliament voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and passed the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill, which was signed by the president on 8 October.

Excessive use of force

On 12 April, students at the Institute of Public Administration and Management participated in a protest against the institution’s release of an incomplete graduate list which omitted hundreds of would-be graduates. The police violently dispersed protesters, beating and stripping a woman of her shirt.

Three days later, a police officer shot dead a young man in Hastings over a private land dispute. Following an internal investigation, five officers were dismissed and the officer who fired the gun was arrested and charged with murder.

Recommendations to strengthen the Independent Police Complaints Board went before the ministry of internal affairs as the basis for a proposed Act of Parliament to regulate police violence.

Freedom of expression

During the UPR process, the government accepted a recommendation to enact a law to protect human rights defenders. By the end of the year, the legislative process to do so had not yet started.

LGBTI people’s rights

Consensual sexual relations between men remained a criminal offence under the Offences Against the Person Act and carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination and stigma and the government rejected all recommendations made during the UPR process to protect their rights and dignity.

Women’s and girls’ rights

Early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) were still prevalent. According to a Save the Children report published in March, Sierra Leone had the 18th highest child marriage rate in the world. The report also stated that girls often join secret societies upon puberty, such as the “Bondo Society”, where FGM is part of the initiation process.

The Rainbo Initiative, a national organization fighting sexual violence, recorded 1,691 cases of sexual and gender-based violence, mostly against women, of which 1,522 were sexual assault cases and 169 were physical assaults, in the cities of Freetown, Bo, Makeni, Kenema and the district of Kono between January and June. In July, the minister of gender and children’s affairs reaffirmed the government’s commitment to end such violence by 2030.

In October, the government introduced the Gender Empowerment Bill in parliament which aimed to increase women’s access to finance and to reserve 30% of parliamentary seats and cabinet positions for women.

Right to health

Maternal and infant mortality rates remained high. Sierra Leonians used social media to denounce the lack of sanitation in two of the main public hospitals in Freetown, Connaught Hospital (the main referral hospital) and the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH). On 13 April, junior doctors announced a strike, demanding, among other things, a clean working environment at the Connaught Hospital and a running water supply for PCMH.

With a limited number of oxygen plants in the country, hospitals struggled to respond to the third Covid-19 wave. By the end of September, more than 396,505 adults had received their first Covid-19 vaccine and more than 89,902 had received a second dose.

Mental health services failed to meet the needs of those suffering trauma from the recent conflict, and of Ebola survivors who lived with the after-effects of the virus. A lack of government spending, insufficient donor support and a shortage of skilled mental health professionals, among other factors, prevented them from receiving adequate care. There were only two practising psychiatrists and a visiting psychiatrist to serve the entire population.1

Environmental degradation

In July, a report by the special select committee tasked by parliament to investigate alleged contamination of the Taia/Jong River disclosed that water pollution had been caused by extensive mining activities along the Pampana River and its tributary streams in Tonkolili District, and Hugy River in Valunia Chiefdom, Bo District, which finally emptied into the Taia/Jong River. The report further revealed that the mining activities had an adverse impact on farming, fishing and drinking water supplies. Seventeen deaths were caused by waterborne diseases. The committee recommended that all artisanal and illegal mining activities in the region be put on hold.

Sierra Leone Newsroom

May 23, 2022 • Report

Death Penalty 2021: State-Sanctioned Killings Rise as Executions Spike in Iran and Saudi Arabia

2021 saw a worrying rise in executions and death sentences as some of the world’s most prolific executioners returned to business as usual and courts were unshackled from Covid-19 restrictions, Amnesty International said today in its annual review of the death penalty.

July 2, 2018 • Report

Sierra Leone: New government must prioritize ending police crackdowns on peaceful protesters

The new government of Sierra Leone must start fulfilling its promises to improve the human rights situation in the country by lifting restrictions on peaceful demonstrations and ending entrenched impunity for police killings of protesters, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

November 6, 2015 • Report

Shamed and Blamed: Pregnant Girls’ Rights at Risk in Sierra Leone

Thousands of pregnant girls, excluded from mainstream schools and barred from sitting upcoming exams, risk being left behind as Sierra Leone moves forward from the Ebola crisis, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 23, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Sierra Leone 2013

Republic of Sierra Leone Head of state and government Ernest Bai Koroma The former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was convicted and sentenced for crimes committed in Sierra Leone during …

September 5, 2011 • Report

Sierra Leone: Pregnant women still denied lifesaving medical care

Pregnant women and girls in Sierra Leone face continuing challenges in gaining access to maternal health care services. Despite important reforms initiated over the last two years, including a free health care policy covering pregnancy and childbirth, the health care system is dysfunctional and much remains to be done. In this report, Amnesty International examines how gaps in monitoring and accountability are undermining the success of the recent health care reforms, in particular free access to essential drugs in pregnancy and childbirth.

June 16, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Sierra Leone 2011

Head of state and government: Ernest Bai Koroma Death penalty: retentionist Population: 5.8 million Life expectancy: 48.2 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 160/136 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 39.8 per cent The …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Sierra Leone 2010

Head of state and government Ernest Bai Koroma Death penalty retentionist Population 5.7 million Life expectancy 47.3 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 160/136 per 1,000 Adult literacy 38.1 per cent Violence …

November 7, 2016 • Press Release

Sierra Leone: Continued pregnancy ban in schools and failure to protect rights is threatening teenage girls’ futures

Sierra Leone must lift a deeply discriminatory ban on visibly pregnant girls attending school and taking exams, which continues to entrench gender inequality in the country and puts thousands of teenage girls’ futures at risk, Amnesty International said today, a year on from its report on the issue.