From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Human Rights Commission on ACHPR Workshop
By Aruna Turay
Jun 23, 2010, 17:04

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone will today 18th June 2010 end a two day workshop on Reporting Obligations of Sierra Leone to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in the Conference Hall of the Council of Churches Sierra Leone. The two day workshop which started on Thursday 17th June 2010, attracted participants from the Civil Society Organizations, Human Rights Committees and activists.

In his speech, the Chairperson Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Mr. Edward Sam informed that this workshop marks a new beginning in the joint effort to make the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, an instrument that understood and utilized the promotion and protection of human rights. He said in 2004, the Sierra Leone Parliament enacted ‘The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act’, which led to the establishment of the Commission as provided for in the Lome Peace Agreement of 1999 and as provided for in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report of 2004.

UN's Nana Busia Delivering the Keynote Address

The objective of the Commission he went on is for the protection and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone, adding that the Commission has, among several of its core statutory functions, to review existing legislation and advice the Government concerning compliance by such legislation. He also elaborated on how the Commission looks at the obligations of Sierra Leone under international treaties or agreements following which, they advise Government concerning preparation of periodic reports required by international human rights treaties or agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party.

“Sierra Leone has ratified many regional and international human rights instruments including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which was adopted by African states in Nairobi in 1981 and entered into force in 1987,” Chairperson Edward Sam said. He furthered that the African Charter is a regional nominative framework which articulates Africa’s concept and philosophy of human rights. He went on that the peculiarities of this instrument are based on its resonance with African values, cultures and levels of economic development within the global system and that it also seeks to comply with international human rights norms as contained in the UN human rights standards.

The High Table

By signing the Charter, Chairperson Sam went on, Sierra Leone is bound by the provisions of the Charter, which includes the obligation to implement the provisions of the Charter and the obligation to submit periodic reports as stipulated in Article 62 and Rules 78, 83 and 85 of the Commission’s rules of procedure. He said state parties are required to submit a report every two years, adding that the report should take into account legislative and other measures taken by Government with the view to give effect to all the provisions of the Charter.

Sadly however, he noted that Sierra Leone to date has not submitted any report to the African Commission adding that there are also a number of outstanding reports not only to the ACPHR but to other treaty monitoring bodies. To help fulfil the mandates of 2008, Mr. Sam revealed, HRCSL, UNIPSIL, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has developed a treaty body reporting strategy for United Nations Human Rights Treaties and conducted workshop for Government officials identified as focal points for the State’s reporting obligations. In addition, he said in June this year, HRCSL with support from UNDP’s Access to Justice Project is presently conducting capacity building workshop for focal points Government officials on the writing and submission of Sierra Leone’s initial report to ACPHR, while steering committees composed of representatives from each Ministry including women and also including the Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee is also now in place.

Participants of the Workshop

On the part of Government, a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Franklyn Brima Fawundu said that this workshop signifies the readiness and commitment of the Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR). He said since the since the ratification of this Charter, Sierra Leone has made every effort within its reach to ensure its human rights records are put straight. This he said was manifested in the setting up of the Special Court of Sierra Leone in 2002 which was intended to bring justice to those who bear the greatest responsibility in the decade long rebel war. He assured of his ministry’s continuing and fullest cooperation and support at all times.

The two day workshop saw topics ranging from background to the adoption of the African Charter, peculiarities of the Charter, resonance of the African Charter to African Human Rights Systems African Commission Mandate and Strategy, African Commission procedure for state reporting, to state report writing. It was all climaxed with a certification ceremony.

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