The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Irish Aid hosted mobile complaints hearing in Joru Gaura in Kenema District and Bonthe Island on Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th May, 2022.
Residents of the two localities were able to access the Commission in their locality on issues of human rights including; unequal protection before the law; Property deprivation; cases of unfair hearing, child maintenance (child support), child labor; early marriage and domestic violence.
The Mobile Complaints Hearing started in 2017 with the aim of taking the Commission to hard-to-reach communities, where people normally will not have access to its facilities. Since then, the Commission has visited approximately fourteen (14) communities across the country and documented over 100 complaints from residents.
A total of five complaints were recorded in Joru Gaura from four (4) males and one female, while at the Bonthe Municipal Council Hall, six (6) complaints were documented. Some of the complaints bordered on land disputes, unfair hearing/pervasion of justice by the Sierra Leone Police and non-payment of salaries.
Residents of Joru Gaura in Kenema District and Bonthe Island applauded the Commission for visiting their respective communities to received complaints and added that they have been faced with many challenges bordering on human rights because they were not enlightened on their rights and where to report cases.
In Joru Gaura, Commissioner Oversight for the Directorate of Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services, Commissioner Hassan Samba Yarjah said the HRCSL’s mandate is to protect and promote the rights of all in the country and added; “Enjoying one’s human rights should not infringe on others same rights.”
He noted that the Commission is a problem-solving institution and that those coming with complaints should trust the HRCSL’s role in solving those matters.
Commissioner Yarjah added that complaints that do not fall within the mandate of HRCSL are normally referred to their partners for prompt actions.
In Bonthe Island, complainants expressed optimism of getting redress for cases reported to the HRCSL.
After making his complaint, Jusu Joseph said: “I feel happy today and if only we have had such an opportunity in the past, it would have been good for us. I strongly hope that the Commission will look into the complaints made and come to our aid. I am hopeful of getting positive news from them.”
Deputy Mayor of Bonthe Municipal Council, Mohamed M. Robinson commended the HRCSL for taking the complaints hearing to their doorstep but called on them to consider having an office space in the Island to help address some of the human rights issues affecting residents. Similar sentiment was also expressed by the Chairman of the Bonthe District Human Rights Committee, Patrick Kamara.
Vice Chairperson of the Commission, Victor Idrissa Lansana said the concern from the residents was very legitimate and added; “Bonthe is a very important district and it is good that we have an office space here. We have taken your concern onboard and we will ensure that we analyze it.”
The various teams also embarked on public education in schools, as well as monitoring of health facilities and police cells.