HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SIERRA LEONE
CHAIRMAN’S SPEECH ON AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
Today, Sierra Leone joins the rest of the African Union (AU) member states to commemorate Africa Human Rights Day the theme “Promoting Women’s Empowerment is an African Shared Value” .This year’s celebration coincides with Sierra Leone’s fulfillment of its reporting requirement under the African Charter for the first time on the 8th November 2015 before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) was adopted by the OAU on 27 June 1981 and entered into force on 21 October 1986, a day which is celebrated annually as the Africa Human Rights Day.
The African Charter established the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the 3rd July 1986 to promote, protect and interpret the rights enshrined in the Charter. The African Charter, like the continent itself, is unique in so many respects:
· It recognizes that all rights are the same and indivisible. It recognizes civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights
· It recognizes peoples’ and groups rights to development, free disposal of natural resources and self-determination and
· it imposes duties on both States and individuals. The enjoyment of rights and freedoms also implies the performance of duties and responsibilities on the part of everyone.
Since the adoption of the Charter some 34 years ago, it has formed the framework for individuals to claim their rights in an international court. Gone are the days when States laid claim to their sovereignty because the Charter emphasized that human rights violations could no longer be relegated to the realm of “internal affairs”. For instance, Article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act authorizes the Union to intervene within each Member State in cases of war crimes, genocide, mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. The Africa Human Rights Day, which we celebrate today 21st October, is therefore significant insofar as it affords AU Member States the opportunity to renew their commitment to fight against impunity in Africa. It is also an opportunity to urge all African Union Member States to honor their obligations under the African Human and Peoples’ Rights System and take all necessary measures to ensure the respect, protection and promotion of all human rights.
The reporting mechanism established under the Charter provides an opportunity for constructive dialogue and review. African Union Member States can now review their human rights achievements and challenges over time. The setting up of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and its subsequent entry into force on 25th January 2004 complements the protective mandate of the Commission which has the added effect of holding human rights violators in Africa accountable. The decisions of this court are final and binding on State Parties to the Protocol, including Sierra Leone.
As we commemorate this year’s Africa Human Rights Day, let me congratulate one of my colleague commissioners, Mrs. Jamesina Essie Leonora King, who was recently nominated, elected and appointed commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Her appointment supports this year’s theme “Promoting Women’s Empowerment as an African Shared Value”.
The Commission recognizes government’s efforts in promoting women’s empowerment in the ratification, in 2015, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa commonly known as the Maputo Protocol. Prior to its ratification, the government of Sierra Leone had already gone ahead with the implementation of most of the provisions of the Protocol: the Sexual Offences Act (2012), the Child Rights Act (2007), the Domestic Violence Act (2007), Devolution of Estates Act (2007), and The Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act (2007). The protocol is an important regional instrument that adequately protects the rights of women taking into account the cultural and traditional context and the special needs of African women which may not be adequately addressed by the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. It further strengthens existing legislations on women’s and children’s rights.
As we commemorate this day, I wish to extend the Commission’s heartfelt condolences to all bereaved families who lost loved ones to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and those affected by same in Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. I also wish to express similar sentiments to the families of all those who lost their lives as a result of the recent floods in Sierra Leone. The Commission also empathises with those who lost their homes and other property as a result of these floods.
The Commission recognizes the ongoing efforts of the government of Sierra Leone and other development partners to eradicate the Ebola Virus Disease as well as provide care and ultimately re-locate victims of the floods. The Commission joins the government of Sierra Leone to continue urging everyone to remain vigilant more than ever before in observing all Ebola precautionary measures until the nation is finally declared Ebola free.
Sierra Leone should remain committed to promoting women’s empowerment as well as upholding the provisions of the Charter and the government of Sierra Leone is urged to implement the concluding recommendations of the African Commission which will be made on the 9th of November 2015.
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone will continue to work with the government and people of Sierra Leone in the implementation of the recommendations so that improvement of human rights can be fully realized.
HAPPY AFRICA HUMAN RIGHTS DAY.