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ONS boss warns:

Ebola checkpoints may pose tension between security and civilians

NOVEMBER 27, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi

The Office of National Security (ONS), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has facilitated the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the correct management of quarantined areas and health-related checkpoints across the country.

It is reported that most public health related checkpoints are manned by military and police personnel without adequate training in human rights or concrete standard procedures.

The development of the SOPs was the result of a consultative process that engaged key stakeholders including the Sierra Leone Police, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and civil society, where it was agreed that quarantined communities are unprecedented in Sierra Leone, as are public health related checkpoints. Nevertheless, many military and police personnel are sent to man these mechanisms without training or concrete standards in place.

According to ONS Chief of Staff, Ahmed Sannoh, the development and roll-out of these SOPs are central to maintaining peace and security in Sierra Leone during the current crisis, noting that various stakeholders have demonstrated admirable cooperation and commitment to ensure that the actors on the ground are well-equipped to implement the emergency regulations while also upholding the human rights of civilians.

He said quarantined communities and checkpoints are central to the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the Ebola virus but they can also cause tension and potential conflict between security forces and civilians.

“Considering the risks posed by these mechanisms in relation to the violation of human rights of both civilians and responsible security personnel, and the fact that their correct management is vital for the containment of Ebola, ONS has taken the initiative to standardise operating procedures across all quarantined areas and checkpoints and to ensure that fundamental human rights are upheld in their implementation,” said a release issued by ONS and its partners.

Simon Ridley, Programme Manager at UNDP, said since the finalization of the SOPs, ONS, RSLAF, SLP, HRC-SL and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have shown exemplary collaboration and an integrated approach to the training that has helped to enhance mutual understanding of respective roles and complementarity, and has forged strong inter-agency partnership to halt the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

“We hope that such fruitful partnerships will last beyond the current crisis and will contribute to upholding law, order and human rights in Sierra Leone in the long term,” he noted.

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