Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 December 2019:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio yesterday, told a group of distinguished lawyers from across English Speaking West African countries attending a Judicial training workshop in Freetown, that bad political governance and corruption restrict civic space and destroy democratic freedoms.
The workshop which is jointly organised by the Judicial and Legal Training Institute and the International Commission of Jurists, attended by lawyers from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia, is discussing the effective implementation of global, regional and sub-regional human rights norms in Anglophone West Africa.
Addressing the participants, President Bio said that citizens would enjoy their inalienable human rights when civic and environmental governance are most conducive and transparent.
He noted that governance of the environment and the mitigation of the impact of human activity on the environment are critical, for the full enjoyment of the rights to food and health security.
He said that Sierra Leone has signed and ratified treaties and conventions, domesticating them and setting up courts.
“We have domesticated most of these in our laws, such as the Child Rights Act of 2007, the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, the Persons with Disability Act of 2011, the Distribution of Estates Act of 2007, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act of 2007; and, the Sexual Offences Acts of 2012 and 2019.
“Sierra Leone is committed to respecting, promoting, protecting, and fulfilling the Human Rights of its citizens. Our Courts are addressing issues regarding Human Rights within powers enshrined in our Constitution Act No. 6 of 1991.
“We will also continue reviewing how other such progressive treaties as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights will work with our domestic laws and judicial processes. Sierra Leone also maintains its affirmation of the goals of Agenda 2063,” he assured.
President Bio also told the lawyers that Sierra Leone has held five free elections and three peaceful transfers of powers in recent times; promising that, his government will firmly consolidate a culture of democratic rule and democratic accountability.
“My Government has affirmed the right to education of the child by increasing allocations to education to an unprecedented 21% of the national budget. Together with the right to food security and quality healthcare, it is at the centre of the Government’s Human Capital Development priorities,” he noted.
The President concluded by saying that he wholeheartedly commends and supports the initiative of dialogue, particularly with the involvement of the judiciary of Sierra Leone.
Honourable Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone (Photo), said in his keynote address that respect for human rights is central to any society, whether it is from a political, civil, economic or cultural standpoint.
He added that all human beings are born free and equal, and noted however, that there are countless instances where those rights have been violated by a large number of the world’s population.
“As independent judges, we stand as guarantors, guardians, protectors, and enforcers of human right norms; and it is but pertinent and inevitable that we should choose to be competent and diligent judicial officers by equipping ourselves in ways as to acquire or reinforce knowledge in the subject, as to be sufficiently knowledgeable, possessing the requisite knowledge and gravitas to withstand any challenge on human rights, no matter where it is coming from.
“As an organ of the state, we, like the executive and legislature, have a duty to respect, protect and promote and fulfil the human rights of our respective citizenry; and where the executive and legislature have failed, we cannot fail,” he assured.
President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Robert Kowa (Photo above), said that the practice of human rights is grounded in the nature of human beings themselves; adding that he is confident that this week’s training workshop would provide practical tools to deliver human rights standards and norms. He also added that it would promote and protect good governance in the respective countries
Chairperson of the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission, Patricia Nansu Ndanema, said that she is gratified to be part of the experience-sharing occasion that is geared towards the protection of and respect for human rights. She said that the workshop shows commitment on the part of Anglophone West Africa for the promotion of human rights norms.
“Application of human rights norms within the justice system is crucial, but if discussions here today are put into actions, then I remain very optimistic that they will lay strong foundation to address many human rights concerns within the justice system which include but not limited to the long delays of prison inmates to enjoy their rights to be heard and on time; and the long term detention without indictment. I believe experiences shared here will better improve on the effectiveness of the structures that are meant to restore hope when victims access them,” she said.