RefugeeBlackBox Blockade Installation at the entrance of the Police station in Dessau where Oury Jalloh died 15 years ago /Photo: Osaren Igbinoba

Protesters demand justice for Oury Jalloh, 15 years on

Hundreds of protesters turned out in Dessau on Tuesday to commemorate the death of Oury Jalloh in the city fifteen years ago.

The Sierra Leonean burnt to death mysteriously in police custody in the eastern German city on 7 January 2005 and until today, the circumstances of his death have not been fully cleared despite a sustained campaign for justice on the case.

The late Oury Jalloh, here with his new-born child in an undated photo, has become a rallying figure for the Black Lives Matter movement in Germany / © Private


About 650 people took to the streets in Dessau on Tuesday not only to remember Jalloh but also so that the case is not forgotten.

Carrying placards reading “Oury Jalloh – That Was Murder”, protesters call for the exact circumstances surrounding the mysterious death to be cleared and those responsible to be brought to justice.

The annual demonstration was organized by the alliance “Break the Silence – Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh”, which has been working for the clarification of what exactly happened in detention cell number 5 of the Dessau police station 15 years ago because they don’t believe in the official version that Jalloh set himself on fire.

Despite long legal trials, it remains unclear, among other things, how the fire-resistant mattress on which Jalloh was fastened in the cell could have burnt so quickly that he died before help could come. Did police officers pour inflammable fluid on Oury Jalloh and set him on fire?

Activists blazoned Oury Jalloh Complex on the building of the police station /Photo: Osaren Igbinoba


Just last year, a new report commissioned by the “Break the Silence” initiative showed that the African was seriously injured and could have been severely beaten before his death. These injuries have never been officially accepted and explained. Activists believe that Jalloh was set on fire to cover the fatal injuries he must have sustained from policemen on duty on the fateful night.

According to a research conducted on the case by the ARD magazine “Monitor”, Oury Jalloh was probably killed. Citing investigation files, the TV programme reported that several experts came to that conclusion after various reports and fire tests show that the possibility that Jalloh set himself on fire was far less likely than that he was set on fire by other persons.

In 2017, the Dessau public prosecutor Folker Bittmann identified concrete suspects after his investigations. The case was then withdrawn from him and after a short time the file was closed.

But it is far from over for the “Break the Silence” alliance which has vowed to continue its struggle for justice for Oury Jalloh.

A lawyer representing Oury Jalloh’s family has lodged a complaint. And the Left party in Saxony-Anhalt is also calling for new investigations. The case had to be dealt with politically, legally and socially, the political spokeswoman for the party, Henriette Quade, emphasized on Tuesday in Magdeburg.

Felix Dappah

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