By Ibrahim Tarawallie
With support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Access to Security and Justice Programme, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) yesterday held its first quarterly seminar on criminal justice reform in Sierra Leone.
The event, at Santano House on Howe Street in Freetown, brought together participants from organisations and institutions working on justice to discuss ways of improving the criminal justice system in the country.
According to CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, the seminar, which is the first of six to be held, focuses mainly on the state of prisons and the challenges and opportunities for reforms.
He noted that the seminar is part of an evidence-based advocacy project sponsored by DFID-funded Access to Security and Justice Programme, with an overarching goal of supporting ongoing initiatives to bring about reforms in the criminal justice system.
“CARL and its partners intend to utilise the outcome of today’s discourse for advocacy related purposes. Invariably, a significant step toward addressing challenges, if any, that our prison facilities face would possibly require a renewal of the existing legal and regulatory framework,” he stated.
In his statement, Director of Namati, Sonkita Conteh, Esq., called for a wide range of consultation to be held in the drafting of the Correctional Services bill, which if enacted into law would transform the country’s Prisons Department to a Correctional Services Center.
According to Sonkita, it would be worthwhile for those drafting the bill to get the views of prisoners in various prisons around the country on what should be done to improve housing and other conditions in the prisons, and take into account the country’s international human rights obligations.
“It will also be good to look at existing laws on criminal justice and see how they can be harmonised with the Correctional Services bill,” he noted.
On behalf of lawmakers, Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), encouraged organisations and civil society groups to lobby Members of Parliament to ensure the smooth passage of the Correctional Services bill, which is currently being drafted.