From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Human Rights Commission Engages Stakeholders on State of Human Rights Report (SoHR)
By Bampia Bundu
Oct 7, 2010, 17:02

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) on Tuesday, 5th October started a three-day Constructive Engagement at the Presidential Lounge of the National Stadium in Freetown with relevant stakeholders related with human rights in the country to discuss the State of the Human Rights Report (SOHR) 2009 to be collated and reported on by the Commission. The engagement which ends today, Thursday, 7th October 2010 has attracted representatives of civil society organizations, Government officials and wide range stakeholders.

The main thrust of the engagement is to get the inputs of key stakeholders into what should be captured in the report and how these should be presented to reflected the general views and understandings of these stakeholders on what obtains in the country with regards human rights- where and when they are being violations or where and when they have been respected by the State. The Human Rights Commission-Sierra Leone views this process as requiring full-fledged participation and contribution of key stakeholders. 


Members of the high table


Delivering his statement, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission-Sierra Leone, Commissioner Edward Sam outlined the roles and responsibilities of the Commission in promoting and protecting the rights of the citizens of this Sierra Leone, noting that the role of protecting and promoting the rights of the citizens of this country does not only lie on the Commission alone, rather, he said, it is the responsibility of every citizen, but more especially civil society organizations and the government. He said standing in defense of human rights in all its manifestations is a moral responsibility of every citizen in the light of ensuring a just, free and equitable society. Commissioner informed that when the Commission noticed the rate at which pregnant women and children less than five years died over the years, it recommended among other issues in its 2008 Report that government should work hard to reduce the deaths rate as it constituted to a violation of the rights of the women and children. Interestingly, he noted, government this year introduced the Free Health Care Programme which he said may not be unconnected with the clarion call of the Commission.

Mr. Bankole Morgan addressing one of the group during the working session


In his welcome address, the Regional Human Rights Officer for the Western Area, Bankole C.E. Morgan explained the purpose of the engagement as to deliberate with civil society organizations, government officials and other relevant stakeholders the findings and recommendations of the human rights report as compiled by the Commission. He said it was necessary for stakeholder representatives to understand the content and context of the report for them to serve as agents to educate their constituencies and or communities and organizations for them to be able to make meaningful contributions towards the adoption of the final report and to chart the way forward.


Mr. Morgan furthered that as a Commission with focus on human rights, they believe in participatory democracy as the bedrock for true democratic practice noting, Gone are the days when people planned for others.


HRCSL Commissioner Joseph Stanley pose for Awareness Times


According to him, planning for the benefit of all and sundry should be participatory, which is just what the Commission is doing with regards it report on the State of Human Rights in the country for the period under review. He went on to posit that the Commission is engaging in this wide rage of dialogue to ensure that the final report reflects a wide range of views and opinions, and assured that the process would be replicated in other parts of the country. He therefore encouraged the participants to partake actively in the deliberations to achieve the intended objective.


Alhaji Mohamed Waritay of Democracy Sierra Leone commended the Commission for its prescience to invite them to such a session. He assured that they will use the experience gained from the engagement to educate other members of society who have not been opportune to be at the session. We are happy because this time around we have the chance to add our voices to the compilation of the report, he noted while calling on colleague participants to take human rights issues seriously.

Perticipant chatting the way forward


In her presentation, the Truth and Reconciliation Officer of the Human Rights Commission, Madam Josephine Thompson-Shaw reflected on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report as an issue of human rights. She talked about the slow pace of the reparation process, the conditions of the beneficiaries and the launching of the special trust fund for war victims among others as crucial elements in the reconciliation process and the human rights credentials of the country. She implored participants to be frank and clear in their contributions to ensure an effective outcome of the session, as they too would be educated in the process. A movie on the Truth and Reconciliation process was played for the participants as part of the session for them to study closely to highlight shortfalls to be discussed and to come up with recommendations.

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