LEGAL LINK: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 October 2019:
Christian Lawyers Centre, also known as LEGAL LINK celebrates this year’s international day of older persons by calling on the government of Sierra Leone to sign, ratify and domesticate the Protocol for older persons in Africa.
It could be recalled that on 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 45/106, designated 1st October as the International Day of Older Persons.
This was however preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing – which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later by the UN General Assembly.
In 1991, the General Assembly by resolution 46/91 adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, whilst in 2002, the Second World Assembly on Ageing adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing and to promote the development of a society for all ages.
It is reported that almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60 and by 2050, 2 billion people, (over 20 per cent of the world’s population), will be 60 or older.
The theme of the 2019 commemoration is “The Journey to Age Equality”
In Sierra Leone, older people have always played a significant role in society, as leaders, caretakers and custodians of tradition. But notwithstanding this however, they have not been rewarded kindly at all by society, especially the political class.
Today, thousands of old people in Sierra Leone are highly vulnerable, with many falling into poverty, becoming disabled or facing discrimination.
This year’s International Day of Older Persons is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society, and to further raise awareness of the challenges facing older persons in today’s world.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.”
The right to dignity, as echoed by all international and regional human rights conventions is a fundamental human right that accrues to ‘every’ human being living in the world regardless of age, socio-economic status, sex, race or nationality.
It ultimately connotes the inalienable, inherent and intrinsic worth and value of every individual, which has no price tag, admits no substitute and cannot be traded off for anything in the world.
Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case for older persons, especially older women in Sierra Leone .
While it is true to state that there are good laws and policies in Sierra Leone with regards to the protection of the rights of children and youths, no specific legal framework however exists in the country that aptly guarantees or protects the rights of older persons.
Hence, they continue to suffer gross violations of their right to dignity, right to the highest attainable standard of health and wellbeing, right to life, freedom from discrimination and violence amongst other violations.
In Sierra Leone, during a fact finding tour by LEGAL LINK to the King Georges Home for the Aged in January 2019, it was shocking to note that medical and bedding facilities are insufficient, and no ambulance exists at the old People’s home to transport affected persons to medical centres in situations of emergency.
The welfare of the aged in the old People’s home has been largely tended to by private institutions, humanitarian bodies and philanthropists. There’s not much to account for with regards government budgetary support and assistance.
In the words of Rashid Dumbuya Esq, Executive Director of LEGAL LINK, “this omission by the state amounts to a violation of the rights of older persons in the country”.
It would be recalled that the African Union in 2016 passed a protocol guaranteeing the rights of Older Persons in Africa. But Sierra Leone is yet to sign, ratify or domestic this protocol within her jurisdiction.
LEGAL LINK therefore calls upon the government of Sierra Leone to sign, ratify and domesticate the 2016 Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa.
The Protocol on Older Persons requires state parties, among other things, to provide access to healthcare for older persons that meet their specific needs, and that older persons be given preferential treatment in service delivery.
It also requires that residential care facilities provide a level of care that complies with international standards.
Significantly, the Protocol also dictates that governments take action to eliminate stereotypes and combat discrimination against older persons.
Consequently, if the government of Sierra Leone cares about protecting and promoting the rights of older persons, it needs to then take the requisite steps to ensure that their rights are adequately provided for and protected at all cost.
With the passing of a law that protects older persons in the country, government’s commitment to older people’s welfare will be made mandatory and any omissions therefore can be actionable in the courts of law.
The Protocol to the African Charter on the rights of older persons in Africa was adopted in 2016 and requires at least 15 states to ratify it before it can come into force.
So far, no state has ratified this protocol. What a shame indeed. We hope that by this call from LEGAL LINK, Sierra Leone will rise up to the occasion and make a difference.