Gov’t urged to do more in Ebola fight
OCTOBER 24, 2014 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) yesterday urged the government and international partners to do more in combating the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the country.
Brima Abdulai Sheriff was speaking at a ceremony to launch the seventh State of Human Rights Report 2013, in compliance with Section 24(1) of the Human Rights Commission Act, No.9 of 2004.
The chairperson said the report catalogues activities undertaken by the commission in protecting and promoting the rights of everyone in Sierra Leone in 2013, as well as documents the way and manner in which fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the 1991 Constitution and international and regional agreements the country is party to were observed or violated.
He further stated that in the area of protecting rights, the commission recorded an increase in the number of complaints, which indicates a surge in demand for the commission’s services nationwide.
To address some of the challenges, he said, the commission issued press releases, advised government and worked closely with the Ministry of Justice, on issues arising from monitoring activities across the country.
He said the commission is concerned about the slow progress in its mediation efforts in the impasse between Malen Affected Land Owner’s Association (MALOA) and the Paramount Chief and Socfin Agricultural Company in Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun District.
He urged the president to summon a meeting with the commission and other stakeholders to resolve the matter.
Highlighting key human rights challenges and recommendations, Commissioner Sheriff said the administration of justice in the country still poses a serious challenge to redress mechanisms, thus the commission urged the judiciary to take steps to ensure fair and speedy trials of matters in court, while calling on the government to improve conditions of service for the judiciary and Law Officers Department.
“There are outstanding reported cases of loss of lives as a result of police intervention to restore order, which in the commission’s view, can be minimized by the use of non-lethal weapons,” he said, adding that the Sierra Leone Police and the Ministry of Justice should ensure that all investigations relating to loss of lives resulting from police actions are made public and brought to logical conclusion.
He said the country is going through a difficult period as a result of the Ebola outbreak, which he said has had a negative impact on every facet of society.
He recalled that in a press release on 31st July, they had called on the government to enhance strategic coordination and communication as well as mobilize resources for the effective management of the outbreak.
As a commission, he said, they have embarked on sensitization and participating in various initiatives to eradicate the disease.
He urged the government to continue to do more to minimize the death rate, particularly among health workers, and women and children, who have been the worst hit by the virus.
He noted that strategies to address stigmatization and trauma by survivors and health workers, as well as the rehabilitation and reintegration of affected communities, should be considered as priority.