By Ishmael Bayoh
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) has concluded a countrywide needs assessment survey for the security forces, which targeted service personnel of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), Prisons and Fire Force.
The appraisal targeted 20 personnel each from the SLP, the RSLAF, Sierra Leone Prisons Service, the Fire Force and other security units.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the survey held in the conference hall of the Office of National Security (ONS), the Director of Education, Communication and Training at the Human Rights Commission, Beresford Davies, said the needs assessment was to gauge the level of understanding of fundamental human rights mechanisms/instruments that are critical to the protection and promotion of human rights by the selected groups.
He explained that the objective was to identify the needs of various stakeholders on key human rights instruments to which Sierra Leone is a signatory; as well as to develop an institutional strategy for advancing human rights education in the security sector of Sierra Leone. The exercise also looked at the establishment of a baseline for the development of human rights education materials, as well as provided an insight into the requirements for curriculum development.
Senior Human Rights Officer, Western Region, Cyphas Williams, explained that human rights education was an international effort to promote awareness about the rights accorded by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, related human rights conventions, and the procedures that exist for redress against violations of these rights.
Research and Documentation Officer, HRC-SL, Frederick Kamara, emphasized that the promotion and protection of human rights through public education was a critical function of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone. He thus stressed that in spite of tremendous efforts made by the Commission to promote the culture of human rights, broader understanding of human rights issues and instruments by key stakeholders – especially by security forces – remains a major challenge.
Similar engagements were done for security forces in the North, South and East of the country. The Commission is expected to conduct a roundtable conference involving key stakeholders in the security sector, as the culminating aspect of the survey, in a bid to validate the survey results.