Sierra Leone: President Koroma 'won't lift state of emergency on Ebola until...'

Freetown, Sierra Leone (PANA) - Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has vowed not to lift the state of emergency imposed on the country in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, until the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the country Ebola-free, the local media reported Tuesday.

According to the local Awareness Times newspaper, President Koroma made the vow in his first public reaction to mounting criticisms and calls for the lifting of the state of emergency, declared last year in an effort to contain the virus, which has ravaged the country as well as neighbouring Liberia and Guinea.

Although the spread of the disease has slowed down significantly, critics say President Koroma's regime has used it as a pretext to stop opposition protests and suppress freedom of expression.

The main opposition Sierra Leone's People Party (SLPP) has criticized its selective and discriminatory application and called on the government to lift all restrictions for citizens to exercise their freedom

The opposition's call has been echoed by the country's Human Right Commission, Amnesty International and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists.

In a statement on Monday, Amnesty International urged the authorities in Sierra Leone to stop using emergency regulations brought in to combat Ebola as a pretext to restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“Now that Ebola cases are reducing and schools have re-opened, the government should immediately review the State of Emergency provisions and ensure that only provisions strictly required to fight the Ebola epidemic remain in effect,'' Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher, said in a statement made available to PANA here.

''Rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must not be unnecessarily or disproportionately curtailed, ’’ Mahtani noted.
-0- PANA SBA/SEG 5May2015

05 may 2015 14:13:06

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