The Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone and partners has concluded a Human Rights seminar on the role of Ministries, Departments and Agencies in fulfilling Government’s Human Rights obligations.
The move is in a bid to strengthen collaboration between the Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone and Ministries, Departments as well as Agencies (MDAs), fostering a collective responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
The one-day seminar was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation’s Conference Hall on Tower Hill in Freetown.
In her welcome address, the Director General at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Victoria Sulaimani, reaffirmed the Government of Sierra Leone’s commitment to upholding human rights as outlined in both international instruments and the country’s 1991 Constitution. She stressed that fulfilling those obligations necessitates coordinated efforts from various MDAs.
She emphasised the importance of interagency collaboration, particularly within the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), involving Ministries such as Justice, Internal Affairs, Health, Education, Social Welfare and Gender. This collaboration, she noted, is crucial for addressing the multifaceted aspects of human rights.
The Director General urged heads of entities to organize training and capacity-building programs to fulfill treaty reporting obligations, emphasizing the need for well-equipped personnel responsible for policy development, law enforcement and service delivery.
She highlighted the significance of eliminating discrimination and addressing systemic inequalities within MDAs. The Government, she affirmed, is committed to implementing policies promoting inclusivity, diversity, management and equal opportunities.
Sulaimani acknowledged the pivotal role of the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies in upholding human rights principles, emphasizing their responsibility in ensuring equal access to justice for all citizens.
She underscored the importance of human rights monitoring and treaty reporting obligations, emphasizing MDAs’ responsibility for regularly reporting on progress and challenges.
The establishment of the National Reporting Mechanism (NRM) Secretariat in 2021 exemplifies Sierra Leone’s commitment to efficiently coordinating human rights reports to international treaty bodies.
In her address, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone, Patricia Narsu Ndanema, said the seminar is aimed to strengthen collaboration between the Commission and MDAs, fostering a collective responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone.
She highlighted the Commission’s recent reaccreditation as a Grade A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) by the United Nations Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), underscoring the importance of assessing operations in line with the 1993 United Nations Paris Principles.
As the world prepares to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, Patricia Narsu Ndanema emphasized the instrumental role of the Declaration’s provisions in shaping international human rights laws and national constitutions, noting that Sierra Leone, recognising the impact of climate change on human rights, has localised this year’s theme to “Stand Up and Fight Against the Impact of Climate Changes.”
She acknowledged the Government’s efforts in developing a national human rights framework, signing, ratifying, and domesticating laws to protect the rights of all citizens. She highlighted Section 7(2)a) (g) of the Commission’s Act, emphasizing collaboration with human rights interest bodies and MDAs.
Referencing the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, the Chairperson noted the objectives of the Government in its fundamental principles of State policy, aligning with the political, social, educational, and foreign policy goals. Although subject to debates, these obligations are aimed at ensuring the enjoyment of human rights.
Drawing attention to Section 24(1)(a) of the Human Rights Commission’s Act, she stressed the requirement to produce an annual report titled: “The State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone.” She called for collaboration from MDAs to gather information, implement recommendations and contribute to the Commission’s monitoring and observation data.
The Chairperson highlighted the Commission’s lack of prosecutorial powers and emphasized the need for cooperation with the Sierra Leone Police to ensure justice for victims. As part of the 75th-anniversary celebrations, the Commission has planned various activities, including a quiz competition, debating competition, football match, human rights awareness float parades, and an official event at the Freetown City Council Hall on December 11, 2023.
Concluding her statement, Ndanema expressed gratitude for the participants’ time and reiterated the collective responsibility in the promotion and protection of human rights in Sierra Leone.