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‘Reviewed Constitution should be from human rights based perspective’

-Says HRC-SL Chairperson 

August 6, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) has stated that whether the reviewed Constitution is compact or bulky, it should be based on human rights perspective.

Brima Abdulai Sheriff was speaking Monday (3 August, 2015) while submitting the commission’s position paper on the review of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC).

He maintained that respect for universal human rights standards should be the watchword of the entire review process and its outcomes.

While explaining the process that led to the submission of their position paper, Mr. Sheriff said an in-house committee was set up with a consultant recruited to produce a position paper in accordance with the commission’s statutory mandate to protect and promote human rights and in particular to ‘review existing legislation and advise government concerning compliance by such legislation with the obligations of Sierra Leone under international treaties agreement’.

“Although many of the suggestions and recommendations in this position paper have already been raised to the CRC in papers and submissions from other entities and the general public, it is the commission’s responsibility to give our considered stance justifying our positions from the human rights based approach,” he said.

Even though the current exercise has being described as ‘a review and not a rewrite’ of the Constitution, the HRC-SL chairperson submits that it accords a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that the supreme law of Sierra Leone addresses critical emerging issues that are not in the current constitution.

According to him, new issues that have emerged since 1991 must be addressed and included in the reviewed constitution because Sierra Leone has been through dramatic events and processes since 1990 – civil war and military rule, return to multi-party democracy, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) – and so has the world.

The Human Rights Commission position paper made reference to its submission to the Peter Tucker Review Commission (PTRC) in 2007, which says there still are a number of recommendations for constitutional change proposed by the TRC in its Report of 2004 that are unfulfilled.

They recalled that section 17 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2000 places an obligation on the Government of Sierra Leone to implement all TRC recommendations, adding that the time was appropriate for compliance.

“Such compliance would send a strong signal that the Government and people of Sierra Leone are committed to respect the Rule of Law and Accountability,” Commissioner Sheriff noted.

Receiving the position paper, CRC Chairperson Justice Edmond K. Cowan said they were fulfilling the mandate given to them by government to review the 1991 Constitution in tandem with the Peter Tucker recommendations.

He said the process has been participatory devoid of party politics or political interference and assured the HRC-SL that their position paper would be studied carefully.

“We hope that hard work which you have put in this position paper will be captured in the final document,” Justice Cowan said.

The Constitutional Review Committee was launched in July 2013 by President Ernest Bai Koroma to commence the process of reviewing the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone (Act No.6, 1991). The 80-man committee is expected to complete nationwide consultations this year, following which the draft constitution will be adopted or rejected by a national referendum.