By Yusufu S. Bangura
With support from United National Development Programme (UNDP) and Irish Aid, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL), has organised it third reginal advocacy consultation with stakeholders on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations focusing on the Constitutional Review Process (CRP) and the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Bill.
The meeting was to create public awareness for the people of Sierra Leone to understand what the government has accepted on their behalf.
The meeting was held at the Campaign for Good Governance hall, Waterloo in the Western Rural district on Tuesday 31st May,2022.
Giving the purpose of the meeting, Deputy Director and Head of Treaty Body Reporting Directorate at HRCSL, Brima Kelson Sesay said they organised the stakeholders meeting because during the UPR, the government accepted 216 recommendations and they note 58 out of 274 recommendations that various countries cover for Sierra Leone at the 38th sessions of the UPR working group.
He said the recommendations Human Rights Council working group adopted then at the 48th session and the during the adoption, government promised to make three additional commitments to review the provisions that give government the power to sentence children in the Sexual Offence Act that was repealed in 2019 to be in line with the Child Rights Act of 2007.
He said the government also made a commitment to resume the constitutional review process and that they further made a commitment to abolish the death penalty, which the government has done in 2021.
“We are all aware that the government has restarted the constitutional review process by publishing the government white paper. The government has also abolished the death penalty, but we as a commission even though we are happy for the abolishment of the death penalty, we are still calling on them to ratify the second optional protocol of the death penalty because we don’t want other government to remove it in the constitution,” he said.
He said the government also made other recommendations to support the Human Rights Commission for them to be able to do their work, adding that after UPR at Geneva, the HRCSL went into action by creating public awareness and public education for the people to understand some of the recommendations the government had accepted on their behalf.
He said they have gone to so many place across the country.
Temne Tribal Sub-Head of Western Area Rural, Chief Alimamy Kamara Bethanyeng iv said by his understanding the UPR was for them to review the statues of the country on human rights features and obligations because the responsibility of the commission is to ensure that they uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the country.
He said those present at the meeting showed that they were ambassadors representing their various communities so that they can meaningfully contribute to recommend the two important issues that the commission would educate them on.
He said as ambassadors they needed to say sensible things during the meeting that would be added to the national review process because when national issues arise, the government look up to them so he encouraged others to put all their minds together to give salient recommendations that would benefit the country.
Member of Human Right Defenders Network, Agnes Abu said government has made little way to address human rights issues even though they have more to do and some of them are representing various institutions but yet still things are not working good for them, so she calling on the commission to embrace them because they are right people that discuss human right issues.
Reginal Head of Human Rights Committee, Pentann Conteh said they have so many human rights cases in Waterloo that they were trying to amend and that they were happy to meet with the commission because they were having a lot of constraints with office space.
He called on the commission to secure an office space for their clients because they were working for the people to know that human right is working at Waterloo.
Giving brief presentation on UPR process, Commissioner Hassan Samba Yarjah said UPR provides an opportunity for all states to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.
He said the Human Rights Council was created on the 15 March 2006 by the UN General Assembly and that the mandate of the Council is to understate a UPR based on objective and reliable information of the fulfilment by each state of its human rights obligations and commitment in a manner which ensures universality of courage.
“I want you to understand that human rights is the standard measurement of everyone in the country because it monitors every activities of human being and the goal is achieve by assessing states human rights records and addressing human right violation wherever they occur. The DHRC is the foot soldier of the commission because they go everywhere in the districts to address human right issues,” he said.
Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Victor I. Lansana, made presentation on the Constitutional Review Process and Alphonsus Gbanie also made presentation on the Human Rights Defenders Bill.