Sierra Leone Scores Milestone In Global Human Rights Accountability And Transparency
Geneva, Switzerland, Monday 1st February 2021 - Sierra Leone this week submitted its national human rights progress report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, marking a significant milestone in respect of His Excellency, President Dr Julius Maada Bio's commitment to Human Rights Accountability and Transparency.
The report, prepared with the assistance of a renown International Consultant funded by the United Nations to ensure its objectivity, covers all facets of the human rights and rule of law situation in Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Dr Lansana Gberie, Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations, tabled the report to the UN Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Nabeela Tunis, on January 31, 2021.
The 32-page report highlights the government's commitment to “fundamental human rights and freedoms of individuals,” noting that “all the core non-derogable rights have been firmly safeguarded” by the Bio administration. The report underlines particularly the government's commitment to the Independence of the Judiciary, citing the recent treason trials. The trial process of Paolo Conteh, which lasted for around three months from July 2020, “helped to underscore the independence of the judiciary as envisioned under the 1991 constitution and fair trial principles,” the report says. In an unprecedented decision, the government did not attempt to influence the jury selection process and when the 12-person jury “returned their verdict of not guilty on 11 of the charges including treason,” Bio's government “complied with the decision of the court, ”The report says. There are no political prisoners in Sierra Leone, says the report.
The report also highlights President Bio's fulfillment of his manifesto commitment to abolish the Criminal Libel Laws by repealing Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965. It also features the First Lady's successful 'Hands-off our Girls' campaign; the Government's reversal of the ban on pregnant girls from going to school; the declaration of sexual violence as a national emergency; and the enactment of the Sexual Offenses (Amendment) Act, as recent developments in the promotion and protection of human rights, especially of women and girls.
Also prominently featured in the report is the Bio Government's increase of budgetary allocation towards education from 15% to 21%. The Free Quality Education scheme is recording huge achievements, the report says, with school completion rates for boys and girls at all-time high. In 2015, for example, 48.7% of boys and 65.4% of girls completed basic school education. According to the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School Education, school completion rate in 2019 stood at 92% for boys and 90% for girls.
The report details action the government has taken to fight the Coronavirus pandemic and mitigate its impact, noting that those actions are rooted in the rule of law and are fully compliant with national law (Section 29 of the Constitution) and international human rights principles (Article 4 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). The report highlights government's financial support packages to people and businesses to soften the harsh impacts of COVID-19.
The report notes impressive records of actions and measures taken by the Government to implement the 177 recommendations it had accepted from the UN during the last review of the country's human rights record. Through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the Government of Sierra Leone worked with Parliament to ratify in July 2019 a total of seven conventions from the International Labor Organization. With these Conventions, Sierra Leone is now in a better position to protect victims of forced labor, domestic and migrant works, as well as guarantee minimum standards in the provision of social security.
The report records challenges, however. The needs survivors of the Ebola crisis and the mudslide in Freetown, and continuing impact of COVID-19, limit Government's ability to protect its people. Poverty and youth unemployment continue to be high, and sexual and gender-based violence remain a problem. Prolonged pre-trial detention and prison overcrowding continue to impact on the right to access to justice.
The National Human Rights Report will be published by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It will be subjected to peer review and scrutiny by Member States of the UN, other UN agencies, civil society organizations and international non-governmental organizations. A delegation from Sierra Leone and the Embassy and Permanent Mission in Geneva will participate in the open review of Sierra Leone's human rights record in May 2021. This review will include an interactive dialogue among UN Member States, and other stakeholders including CSOs. This will be the 3rd UN review of Sierra Leone's national human rights record under the mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Sierra Leone's first two UPR reviews took place in 2011 and 2016.
After the review in May, Sierra Leone will then consider the recommendations that other UN Member States will make during the review and decides which of those recommendations to accept and to note. Following the 2016 2nd UPR review, Sierra Leone received 208 recommendations and accepted 177 and noted 31 of those recommendations.
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