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Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme (SLCMP) Press Release
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Jan 30, 2009, 17:28
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Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme (SLCMP)
PRESS RELEASE

Freetown, Sierra Leone. 29 January 2009

Public Apology before Launch of Reparations: A Chance to Foster Healing and Reconciliation

The Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme (SLCMP) urges the Government of Sierra Leone to offer a public apology before launching the long awaited victims reparations programme.

On 30 January 2009, the Government of Sierra Leone through the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), the implementing agency for the reparations programme, will launch the Reparations Programme for victims of the 11 years civil conflict. Guided by the Lom Peace Agreement of 1999 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act, 2000, the TRC recommended the creation of a programme to address and respond to the specific needs of victims. Although it is coming seven years after the war ended, the SLCMP nonetheless welcomes the decision and congratulates the Government and NaCSA.

The conflict in Sierra Leone was characterised by serious violations of human rights at almost all levels. According to the TRC Report Vol. 2 p. 237, " most [victims] have been reduced to living in poverty, some having to endure the loss of limbs and others shunned because of their personal experiences such as rape and sexual slavery". Many war victims still live in condition that is not conducive to living with dignity. Therefore, domestic and international law guarantee the right for victims to seek redress for violations and the state is obliged to provide appropriate remedies for such violations. To that end, reparations are given as an acknowledgment of liability for wrongdoing, and as part of an attempt to repair the damage resulting from the wrongdoing. They provide redress and accord a measure of social justice and restoration of dignity of the victims of gross human rights violations. The TRC recommended measures to deal with the needs of victims in areas such as health, pensions, education and skills training, micro credit initiatives, community reparations and symbolic reparations. Both the Lom Peace Accord and the TRC Act place a legal obligation on the Government to implement its recommendations. Yet, these recommendations are only being actualised now, about five years since the TRC issued its final report.

Now, as it prepares to launch the programme, SLCMP wishes to remind the Government about the importance of issuing a public apology to the victims of the conflict during the launch of the programme.

"Launching the reparations programme is an important first step as it is in itself an acknowledgment by government of what happened and its responsibility to deliver reparations to victims as recommended by the TRC" says Brima Karl Samura, Media and Communication Officer of SLCMP. "An apology is an important and much needed explicit recognition of victims suffering that has reparative value in itself."

"There are crucial issues which all meaningful reparations programme must address" added Mohamed Suma, Programme Director of SLCMP. "They include measures of satisfaction (including recognition and apology), restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantee of non-repetition (such as institutional reform)."

The SLCMP is convinced that, a genuine public apology from the Government will be of great importance to the overall impact and success of the programme. Such an act signifies remorse, responsibility and regret, acknowledging the real suffering of victims of the conflict which is an essential element for fostering healing and reconciliation.

However, SLCMP also stress that this public apology must be reinforced by concrete efforts to successfully implement the reparations programme. Reparations must go beyond the emotional and symbolic and practically assist victims, most of whom still carry the physical, emotional and social scars of the war.

The Lom Peace Accord and the TRC Act place a legal obligation on the Government to implement the TRC recommendations. During President Koromas maiden address to Parliament on 1 October 2007, he made a commitment to "establish a TRC Follow-Up Committee to superintend the implementation of the TRC recommendations."

According to the TRC Reports (Vol. 2 p. 205), the Government is required to establish a Follow-up Committee "to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission and to facilitate their implementation." The Government is yet to do so. SLCMP submits that President Koroma can manifest his commitment to the implementation of the TRC recommendations by also announcing the establishment of the Follow-up Committee at the launch of the Reparations Programme.

SLCMP wishes to stress that the faithful implementation of the TRC recommendations is not only essential to raise awareness about the lessons learnt from the armed conflict, but will most importantly enhance the effort to guarantee human rights protection, strengthen the rule of law, promote good governance, ensure civilian oversight of the security forces, improve youth capacity building and employment, increase the legal status of women and girls, improve the development of social infrastructure, and foster the spirit of genuine reconciliation.

For further information on President Ernest Bai Koromas manifesto commitments to the TRC recommendations, please see the SLCMP article Elections 2007: A Comparison of Party Manifestos Against the Core Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (July2007) at www.slcmp.org.


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