By S. U. Thoronka…………..
Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone yesterday presented the 20B status report to media practitioners at the conference room of the Commission. Making the presentation Commissioner Brima A. Sheriff noted that the country is going through a difficult period and that the Ebola outbreak has impacted negatively on every facet of our society.
Mr. Sheriff said the presentation of report on the State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone is in compliance with section 24(1) of the Human Rights Commission Act (No.9) 2004.
In the protection of human rights the commission notes an increase in the number of complaints received indicating a growing demand for the commission’s services nationwide. Mr. Sheriff said the commission noted that although some of its recommendations have been implemented, there are still outstanding ones that require urgent attention in order to address occurring human rights challenges.
He said the commission notes with satisfaction the recent electrification of the Bumbuna Community which was a key recommendation in the Bumbuna Inquiry Report. The commission, however, lamented over the slow progress in its mediation efforts in the impasse between Malen Affected Land Owners Association (MALOA), on the one part and the Paramount Chief and Socfin Agricultural Company on the other in Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District.
The commission urges the judiciary to take steps to ensure fair and speedy trials of matters in the courts. In the same vein, the commission calls on government to improve on the condition of service for the judiciary and the law Officer’s Department.
It was noted in the report that there are still reported cases of loss of lives as a result of police intervention to restore order, which according to the commission can be minimized by the use of non lethal weapons. The commission urges both the police and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that all investigations relating to loss of lives from police actions are made public and brought to a logical conclusion.
The report also reiterated the call on government to take the necessary steps to repeal the Criminal and Seditious Libel provisions of the 1965 Public Order Act which affects the rights to freedom and expression. Challenges in the right to access clean and safe drinking water, education, health, just and favourable conditions of work are highlighted.
The report also highlighted some improvement in certain areas including the free health care and the increase in the minimum wage; there were also notable challenges affecting the full enjoyment of their rights.
The reports noted that Parliament is yet to enact the Gender Equality Bill which will provide for the minimum 30% representation of women at all levels of decision making and empower them as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission’s report welcomes the launching of the Agenda for Prosperity a five year socio-economic development plan, made up of eight pillars including Human Rights, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
The Commission’s report noted that, although it appreciates the progressive increase in the budgetary support provided by Government, the budgetary allocation falls far below the actual needs of the commission. As a result of this the commission finds it difficult to attract specialized staff critical of its work.
By S. U. Thoronka…………..