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Message From The Chairperson Of The Human Rights Commission Of Sierra Leone (Hrcsl) Mrs Jamesina King On Human Rights Day 2008
Dec 10, 2008, 17:14
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Today we in Sierra Leone join the worldwide  celebrations in commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a very important theme:" DIGNITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL OF US".

This years theme of Dignity and Justice for all of Us reaffirms the central message of the UDHR that all human beings are entitled to be treated with dignity, non discrimination, equality and fairness. Our own constitution in Sierra Leone dictates that all of us must be treated with dignity.

As we reflect on this years theme we must put in perspective those issues that undermine the dignity of the people of Sierra Leone. Dignity of the human person cannot exist if his or her basic needs such as adequate food, proper shelter, access to health facilities, and education are not being met. These are economic and social rights and a prerequisite for human dignity.

There are factors that exist in our society today that undermine the dignity of many of our people. One of this is corruption which has adverse effects on the enjoyment of human rights by diverting resources from development to the pockets of individuals. Human rights cannot be fostered if corrupt practices are not adequately addressed. In recognition of that the HRCSL and Anti Corruption Commission this year took a decision to commemorate jointly the Anti-Corruption Day which falls on 9th December and the International Human Rights Day which falls on 10th December.

The theme of Dignity and Justice for all of us serves to remind us that children, women, the poor, persons with disability, persons living with HIV/AIDS, prisoners and many other vulnerable persons are human beings. They must all be treated with dignity without any discrimination. It is the responsibility of government and us all to ensure that measures exist to enable our people live in dignity and are treated with dignity. In this connection the HRCSL pays tribute to Government for enacting the Gender Justice laws, the Child Rights Act, the HIV/AIDS Act, the Refugee Protection Act and other related laws as well as developing a strategy to report on its international obligations.. The Commission however calls upon the Government to fully and effectively implement these laws and strategy. The Commission further welcomes the initiative of all stakeholders to promote the domestication on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Sierra Leone has signed. The Commission calls upon the government to ratify this Convention and take over the piloting of the proposed disability law and have it enacted as soon as possible.

In our country today those in conflict with the law such as prisoners on remand or serving sentences or detained in police cells are held under very dehumanizing conditions. Some are subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment undermining their dignity. Many of our people can hardly access justice when they require it. Again this undermines their dignity. The death penalty still remains in our law books, a punishment that is cruel, inhuman and therefore undermines human dignity. The Commission however notes with approval the continuation of governments position in putting a moratorium on the death penalty in Sierra Leone which was made on the occasion of the swearing in of the HRCSL Commissioners in 2006. The Commission urges government to consider abolishing the death penalty in Sierra Leone.

Torture is one grave way of violating the dignity of the human person. Although it is outlawed by the Constitution, the Commission continues to receive complaints alleging its practice by law enforcement agencies. We need to reinforce measures to eliminate this unacceptable practice and therefore the Commission calls upon the government to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified a need for individual and national restoration of dignity, and maintained that self respect or self dignity is not possible when one undermines or destroys the dignity of others. Its first imperative recommendation is that the right to human dignity be enshrined in the Constitution.

The human dignity is better protected when a strong legal framework recognizes and prescribes for the protection of human rights. As it is, the Constitution of Sierra Leone does not recognize all the basic rights that are necessary for the protection of human rights and allows discriminatory laws to apply. The Commission therefore urges the Government to complete the process of reviewing the constitution. In that review economic and social rights, so vital for human dignity must be recognized as entitlements for the individuals of Sierra Leone.

As I conclude, I want to remind us all that the realization of human rights in Sierra Leone is not the responsibility of only the government or the HRCSL. It depends on the collective efforts of us all including the government, parliament, judiciary, traditional authorities, the security forces, civil society, private investors, youths and educational institutions. We must all play our part, including respecting the rule of law, payment of taxes, performing our duties and avoiding corruption. On its part the HRCSL remains committed to fulfilling its mandate of promoting and protecting human rights. In a bid to reach the communities the Commission has established 3 regional offices in Bo, Kenema and Makeni which will be fully operational next year.

On behalf of the Commission I wish us all a bright and fulfilling Human Rights Day. I also take the opportunity to wish all of us a Merry Xmas and prosperous 2009.

Remember to work for the dignity and justice for all of us. Thank You

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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