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International Human Rights Day Celebrated

December 11, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Thursday, 10 December, joined the international community to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly with a ceremony held at the Caritas Hall, St. Edwards Secondary School, Kingtom.

This year’s commemoration came fifty years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted two international covenants – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  The two covenants, together with the Universal Declaration on Human rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out Civil, Political, Cultural , Economic and Social rights that are the birth right of all human beings.

Speaking at the ceremony, chairman for the occasion, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai said state institutions should be held responsible for the violation of human rights. He said the theme for this year’s celebration, ‘Our rights, our freedoms always’, was pertinent to the Sierra Leonean context where poverty is the greatest challenge, and called for the constitutionalisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

“As human rights defenders when government does something good we commend, but we should know that it was their responsibility,” Abdulai said.

Executive Director of Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, Ibrahim Tommy, reiterated that though Sierra Leone was making progress in the area of civil and political rights, attempts at regulating civil society groups and non-governmental organisations would undermine their activities. He also frowned at the continued existence of the seditious libel and defamation laws.

Reading the message from the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, vice chair of the commission, Daphne Olu Williams said this year’s celebration was geared towards promoting and raising awareness of the two covenants – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights – on the 50th anniversary of their adoption. She noted that both covenants bring to mind the four freedoms that underpin the international bill of human rights which are as relevant today as 50 years ago, namely, freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from want.

She used the occasion to urge Parliament to repeal the seditious libel provisions in the Public Order Act of 1965 to ensure unfettered freedom of the press, and also encouraged government to continue to take measures that would ensure the strengthening of the peace and democracy in the country.

Commissioner Olu-Williams also called on government to strengthen the health sector so as to enable it provide adequate and affordable health services for all,  mobilise adequate resources to improve access to water and to provide affordable housing and relocate all those living in slum communities and disaster prone areas throughout the country.

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo, who was the keynote speaker, affirmed government’s commitment to upholding rights and respecting civil liberties. He said the country’s Agenda for Prosperity encompassed human rights based approaches, adding that government would continue to establish more democratic institutions to meet the demands of the people.

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