April 24, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) has expressed concern over what they considered as bias implementation of the Public Emergency Regulations 2014 by the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), particularly the discriminatory application of Section 15 which derogates the right to freedom of assembly and association.
According to a press release issued yesterday and signed by its chairperson, Brima Abdul Sheriff, the commission observed that whilst some groups have been allowed to assemble and exercise their rights to express their views without hindrance, others have been denied the opportunity to do so by the police.
The commission stated that while it is understandable that the SLP has a duty to protect life and property and to maintain law and order, the right to hold peaceful demonstrations should not be withheld, and called for the police to be provided with adequate resources to maintain law and order when the right to hold peaceful demonstration is exercised by various groups.
“HRC-SL calls on the SLP to ensure that all individuals or groups of individuals have equal opportunity to exercise their freedom of assembly and association within the ambit of the law, and to observe the principles of consistency and non-discrimination in the implementation of Section 15 of the State of Emergency Regulations 2014,” the commission said and urged the SLP to maintain their professionalism even during this State of Public Emergency.
The commission reminded the government of its obligations under international law to protect, respect and fulfill basic rights and fundamental freedoms even during State of Emergencies, citing freedom from discrimination, right to a fair trial and freedom of thought and conscience as stated in Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
They also reminded the government of its obligations to respect international treaties to which it is a signatory and as provided for in Section 10(d) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, and further drew their attention to the commission’s recommendation in the State of Human Rights Report 2010, which states that ‘the right to hold peaceful, open and public demonstration is available to all individuals, groups or political parties without undue restrictions’ should be ensured.
In order to restore the full enjoyment of human rights as guaranteed by the constitution of Sierra Leone and international human rights instruments, Parliament was urged to review the State of Emergency with a view to reducing the limitations imposed under the emergency regulations following the significant reduction of new Ebola cases and the reopening of schools and other educational institutions.
Meanwhile, Head of Media Unit of the SLP, Assistant Superintendent Ibrahim Samura, told Concord Times that the Executive Management Board of the force would peruse the HRC-SL statement and respond appropriately.