More particularly, I wish to acknowledge the letters of 16 October 2018 by Professor Dr. Beate Rudolf, Chairperson of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI); and the letter by Mr. Michael Forst, the UN Human Rights Council (UN/HRC) Special Rapporteur dated 19 October 2018.”
She explained further that “except for the National Electoral Commission, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, the Law Reform Commission, the Sierra Leone Teaching Service Commission, and the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards, all other boards, commissions, authorities, and agencies including the HRCSL, together fell to be considered for restructuring.
She added that the HRCSL was neither targeted nor singled out in this national restructuring of state institutions. “Notwithstanding, the government’s action provoked a backlash from our international partners and a spate of queries and criticisms regarding only the HRCSL and its commissioners out of a total number of seventy institutions that were affected.”
In response to queries on the same subject by Mr. Forst, the AG stated that “the GOSL expresses regret and concern that Mr. Forst issued a news release in a week within his promised 60-day period in which he requested the GOSL to respond.”
She added however that the Government of Sierra Leone is committed to establishing a National Human Rights Institution, the NHRI, pursuant to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, No. 9 of 2004 with guarantees of its independence and effective operations.
She went on to state that “Section 3 (1) of the HRCSL Act provides for the composition of the HRCSL and the powers of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone to appoint Human Rights Commissioners. It provides for five (5) Commissioners of which there shall be a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three other Commissioners. Section 3 (2) of the Act contains a mandatory provision for the composition to include at least two lawyers and two women. This is a fundamental requirement to ensure pluralism and gender equity in the composition of the HRCSL that was not adhered to by the previous government.”
According to her, “Usman Jesse Fornah, Ms. Grace Coleridge-Taylor, and Mr. Rashid Dumbuya in respect of whom the queries specifically relate were appointed to the HRCSL in 2017. The HRCSL had outstanding vacancies prior to their appointment as Commissioners. The vacancies occurred by the passing of Mr. Bryma V. S. Kebbie on 2 January 2016; and the second and final term of Mrs. Jamesina King and Rev. Moses Khanu ended on 10 December 2016.
She added that “when the former government appointed Mr. Fornah, Ms. Coleridge-Taylor, and Mr. Dumbuya presumably to fill the three vacancies, it chose not to renew the appointment of the then Chairperson of the HRCSL, Mr. Brima Abdulai Sheriff and the Vice Chairperson, Ms. Daphne Olu-Williams and did not fill their positions with new appointments as mandated by Section 4 of the HRCSL Act. This omission to fill the vacancies left the operation of the HRCSL with only three (3) instead of five (5) commissioners for well over a year is in breach of Section 3(1) of the HRCSL Act.”
In addition, “this composition of only three (3) Commissioners also failed to meet the mandatory pluralism requirement provided for in Section 3(2) of the HRCSL Act, namely that the composition of the Commission shall include at least two lawyers and two women. The requirement of having two lawyers was satisfied but that of two women was not. Mr. Fornah, Ms. Coleridge-Taylor, and Mr. Dumbuya, being sitting human rights commissioners at the time owed a duty to advise and ensure the Commission has its full composition and plural make-up. The three named Commissioners failed in this duty.”
She added that “the three Commissioners conducted themselves in a manner that contravened Section 4(3) (d) & (e) and thereby caused the occurrence of vacancies in their offices. This is further compounded by the flagrant violation by the previous government and the then commissioners of the composition requirements under the HRCSL Act (i.e. five Commissioners including two women and two lawyers) and thereby undermined the Paris principles of pluralism, independence and legal compliance.”