Waiting for Justice

n Pademba, maximum security prison of Sierra Leone are juveniles incarcerated against the law. Sierra Leone signed and ratified U.N Convention for Child Rights which expressly prohibits imprisoning juvenile under 18 years. Detainees don't receive legal assistance and there are many unfair cases. The inmates are in overcrowded cells, many of them sleeping on the floor. Hygiene is non-existent, food and water are scarce, there is no water for washing except you buy it, also to use toilets inmates need to pay. Juveniles suffer abuse, violence and sexual harassment by adult prisoners.

Pademba Road Prison

Mohamed Conteh, fourteen years old, was accused of possessing a small quantity of marihuana and spent four days in the police station without food. To be released, the police had asked for 30,000 leones (7.5 euros) which he did not have. After several months in prison, he was sentenced to three years in jail or pay a bail of 100,000 leones (25 Euros). Mohamed was a street urchin—after 10 years of civil war, thousands of orphans arrived to live on the streets of Freetown.

One of the endemic ills of the Sierra Leone justice system is that inmates spend years awaiting trial and sentencing. In 2004, Abdul Karim Sesay was sent to Pademba Road Prison with thirteen years of age. At the end of 2010, he was still awaiting trial, accused for being a member of a gang involved in a murder. Abdul has not received any legal aid and does not know the status of his case.

Sahr Moresey arrive to Pademba in 2007 as a child. He was charged with murder. The facts are that Sahrwent to the river with his best friend and this was drowned. The child´s family accused Abdul of murder and he is four years pending trial.

Sentencing in this country is abnormally harsh, and the Sierra Leone government has pronounced that criminal responsibility begins at age ten, which is in clear conflict with the Convention for Child Rights ratified by the same government in 1990.

The third time I visited the prison, journalist John Carlin accompanied me. During those days, we were lucky to coincide with Abdul Sesay´s ongoing trial. Abdul was a sixteen-year-old boy that I had met months before in protective custody, the most difficult section to be in. He had not eaten nor drunken any water that day; he felt too weak to fight for his share of rice.

During the trial, we were able to release Abdul by paying a bail of 60 euros and presenting two people as guarantors. This saved Abdul from returning to Pademba Road prison to complete his 3-year sentence but he returned in the streets and two years later i met again in the prison , this time he was in juvenile prison. Then i took out from prison and he was to a rehabilitatin center being the first boy to start the project Free Minor Africa. Now in 2017 he is studying.

This work was mostly shot in Pademba Road Prison in 2010  where 32 children, between the years of 14 and 17, share prison life with 1,300 adults.