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Geneva: Statement by Sierra Leone at 40th Human Rights Council

1 March 2019 at 23:27 | 3830 views

Statement by Sierra Leone

40th session of the Human Rights Council

Clustered interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report of Human Rights defenders & report of the Special Rapporteur on torture
Item 3

28 February 2019

Sierra Leone Statement
(delivered by Ambassador Lansana Gberie)

Mr President,

Sierra Leone aligns itself with the statement of the African Group.

My delegation thanks the two Special Rapporteurs for their reports on human rights defenders and on torture.

Our intervention focuses on the report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, which highlights the critical role of women human rights defenders and the broader impact of promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Special Rapporteur’s report makes important statements with respect to the global situation of human rights. Sierra Leone notes with concern, however, that in Addendum 1 of the report, recent developments in the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone are mentioned in a misleading way.

The Commission, which was established by an Act of Parliament in 2004, was recently restructured as part of broader reform efforts by the Government. It is now properly constituted, and is fully in compliance with the Paris Principles.

A communication from the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice detailing the reasons for this restructuring was sent to the OHCHR about two months ago. For the record, the changes were intended to safeguard the principles of pluralism and the independence of the Commission, in conformity with due process and international best practice. Unfortunately, this is not properly reflected in Addendum 1.

Mr. President,

My delegation takes similar exception to the language used in the report with respect to our review of the current policy on Non-Governmental Organisations.

The review is intended to make sure that resources NGOs canvass on behalf of Sierra Leone are properly and transparently used, as well as to prevent illicit financial flows through non-accountable organisations. One of the stunning revelations that came out of the trial of cocaine traffickers in Freetown in 2008 was that the traffickers set up fake NGOs in the country, both as cover for their activities and to launder some of their ill-gotten wealth.

In the report under discussion, the Special Rapporteurs state that Sierra Leone did not respond to their queries which they had submitted in February 2018. However, my delegation had a meeting with them on 14 December 2018 in Geneva during which we clarified some of the issues they had raised and extended an invitation to them to visit Sierra Leone – the conventional methodology for collecting information for such a report. Both Special Rapporteurs did not bother to do so. My delegation told them that we were worried that they might be trying to contrive a solution and then look for a problem, which is what they have now done.

We reiterate our commitment to freedom of association and to strengthening Civil Society.

Sierra Leone is fully committed to the principles of transparency and accountability, in respect both of the work of Government and of Non-Governmental Organisations, which is why the Government recently set up three anti-corruption Commissions of Inquiry led by independent judges from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria.

The Commissions effectively began work several weeks ago. Their rigour and transparency have silenced the critics who had previously insisted that they were concerned about the rules of procedure. The concern now is that because the Commissions give defence counsels almost unlimited time to cross examine witnesses, often on trivial and irrelevant matters, the mandate of the Commissions will likely have to be extended beyond the six months they were given.

Sierra Leone reiterates its commitment to promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those of human rights defenders working within Sierra Leone – in conformity with national human rights law and our international obligations.

Thank you, Mr President.