July 12, 2021
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) last Friday, July 9, engaged teachers and pupils of Secondary schools in Freetown on human rights and citizens responsibilities.
Speaking during the training, Deputy Commissioner of the Commission, Victor I. Lansana, said training of Human Rights and Peace Clubs has always been a special moment for the commission, noting that they viewed the moment as one in which they are able to build a bedrock for the respect for human rights and for the awareness of existing lives.
He said the commission’s aim was to catch the children young and recalled that the nation went through 11 years civil war because there was no national institution to protect and promote human rights.
He said during that time many people who felt aggrieved by bad governance, corruption and many other social ills took to the arms and went to war and killed over 50,000 people, with many rendered disabled.
He said the culture of human rights was absent in those days and that during the effort to end the war, there was an agreement which was titled the ‘Lome Peace Agreement’ in which leaders of the Government of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders met and agreed that the war should come to an end.
He said one of the recommendations at that meeting was that there should be a Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone that should be there to seek the interest of citizens in terms of the protection and fulfilment of everybody’s rights in Sierra Leone.
He said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) gave birth to the Human Rights Commission at the end of the war on 2004.
He said at the end of the war, the TRC was set up to look into the causes of the war and provided recommendations, stating that one of the recommendations that was made was that a national institution to promote and protect human rights be established.
He said from the Lome Peace Agreement, to the TRC Report, a very strong recommendation was made for the country to have a Human Rights Commission.
He said in 2004, and by an Act of Parliament, government established the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.
He said the primary mandate of HRCSL is to protect and promote human rights of everyone in Sierra Leone, noting that when human rights is being abused and violated, there will be no peace and development.
“That is why in many of our interventions, we have called upon government to put human rights at the centre of their development agenda. Without human rights at the centre of development agenda it is not possible for any nation to grow and develop,” he said.
He said the commission continues to serve as the institution that is responsible to protect and to promote the rights of everyone in the country.
He said the reason for such training was to ensure that those dark days of the civil war do not repeat, adding that they wanted to ensure that children are caught young while in school, so that they could understand what human rights is about and for them to know that they also have responsibilities as citizens.
“We want you to understand and enjoy your human rights, but we want you to also know that human rights are given by law and they are also limited by law,” he noted.
He said they wanted pupils to be ambassadors of human rights in their schools and communities by establishing peace clubs.
Commissioner Lansana said for far too long people thought human rights is a Western World culture that is been imposed on the people, a notion, he said, was completely false.
He said human rights are rights that every citizen should enjoy, including right to education,right to health, right to safe drinking water, right to life, right to freedom of expression, association and many others.