This engagement will aid my work in ensuring that residents get more understanding and confidence in what we have been telling them through our radio discussion programs. Sexual harassment and abuse is prevalent here because of the inflow of people and this is a mining community. But with the intervention of Human Rights Commission and other CSOs, we believe it will reduce drastically, says Augusta Nuwomah from Women Initiative Forum for Empowerment in the Extractive in Rutile.
Madam Nuwomah was among 96 community people; forty-two (42) female and fifty-four (54) male that participated in a Mobile Complaints hearing session hosted by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) at Moriba Town- Rutile, Imperi Chiefdom, Bonthe District on Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th August, 2023.
The objectives of the hearing, which was funded by the UNDP and Irish Aid, were to increase the Commission’s visibility in hard to reach communities, engage in public education on the Commission’s mandate and functions, and the receipt of complaints of human rights violations from residents.
Madam Nuwomah urged the Commission to organize such engagement regularly, suggesting three times a year, in order to create easy access and build confidence in the community people to access and get redress whenever they report cases to them.
“It is my hope that such an engagement will be a regular activity. If the Commission can hold such sessions three times a year, it will be more effective and also help create more access to the office,” she urged.
The hearing commenced with public education on the work of the Commission over the years, especially Complaint Handling Mechanism, and the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 as amended in 2019.
Paramount Chief of Imperi Chiefdom, Leslie Tucker-Thomas thanked the Commission for taking its services to the doorstep of his people, and noted that such engagement will help improve their knowledge on human rights issues.
Francess Maseray Kamara from the Family Support Unit (FSU), Rutile Division said “This engagement is timely. Even as a police officer, there were things about human rights which I never knew before, especially how to treat suspects. I will use the knowledge gain here wisely.”
A total of ten (10) complaints were received. Some of the complaints had to do with access to justice and equal protection before the law, deprivation of property, unfair hearing from the Magistrate Court in Rutile, sexual penetrations are being compromised and neglect and marital disputes are rife.
Commissioner Hassan Samba Yarjah entreated those present, especially the youth to take the message of staying out of crime and say no to drug to their colleagues. The Commissioner informed the people that during monitoring of places of detention, the HRCSL discovered that 90% of inmates are young people.
He encouraged the police to see themselves as human rights defenders because the work they do has an impact on the lives of people and added that the Commission was established to serve as a checkmate in promoting and protecting human rights.
The engagement helped to increase the knowledge of the community people in human rights issues, provisions in the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 as amended in 2019, the HRCSL’s Complaints Handling Mechanism and the Three Gender Justice Laws in Sierra Leone.
The HRCSL team also conducted monitoring visit at the Moriba Town Police Station.