Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission in Sierra Leone, HRCSL, Patricia Narsu Ndanema, has presented the state of human rights report 2020 to President Dr Julius Maada Bio and called for a new government white paper in respect of the constitutional review.
“We call on the government to make a pronouncement on the publication of a new government white paper in respect of the Constitutional review, being one of the government’s voluntary pledges at the UPR”.
“To commit his government to enacting a law that addresses individual police accountability for violations of human rights as it happens in other countries,” she said, adding that the President should also give an executive clearance to the Ministry of Finance for the development of a national human rights action plan.
Madam Ndanema further noted that on Freedom of the Press and Speech, radio, televisions and newspaper houses had operated unhindered in the country and that the Commission neither observe nor did it receive complaints on the denial of the exercise of the said right.
“Government took bold steps to repeal Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965, which criminalised free speech. This was to increase citizens’ participation in governance and create an enabling environment for journalists to freely practice their trade. All pending cases of journalists related to seditious libel provisions were removed out of court,” she said.
The HRCSL Chairperson noted that although during the reporting period complaints received increased from 326 in 2019 to 363 in 2020, including mobile complaints presented in groups but counted as one, that increase was mainly due to the Commission’s robust awareness-raising.
In his remarks, His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio said as President, he made a clear and specific pledge to permanently improve the governance space in Sierra Leone and to assure citizens of their rights.
“I also made a manifesto commitment to review the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee and boldly accept recommendations. I have an unbroken record for keeping my promises and this too shall be kept in short order.
“Government recognises the rationale behind individual police accountability for violations of human rights. More training of Police in de-escalation techniques when dealing with citizens, more scrutiny by the press and by citizens of Police work, and ongoing reforms and restructuring have reduced the number of fatal incidents. But Government acknowledges that more can be done.
“Government notes the specific requests by the commission. Given the current budgetary constraints, Government will favourably review those requests especially as they underwrite the work of the commission especially in developing the National Action Plan on Human Rights,” he said.