Foreign Affairs Minister Receives Sierra Leone’s Validated Human Rights Report

By the Directorate of Strategic Communications
Wednesday, August 2, 2023 /Radisson Blu, Freetown

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Timothy M. Kabba has received the validated report on Sierra Leone’s Human Rights after a two-day inter-ministerial workshop.
In collaboration with the Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, the Foreign Affairs Ministry organized a two-day validation workshop on Sierra Leone’s State Party to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown.

The team led by Matilda Lasseko-Phooko, Program Manager, Women’s Rights Unit of the University of Pretoria handed over the validated report on Wednesday to the Minister. Lasseko-Phooko noted that comments from the workshop were captured in the validated report.
Sierra Leone ratified the Maputo protocol in 2015. State parties commit to producing reports every two years. However, many regions either do not report accordingly or submit reports late, Foreign Affairs Director General and Ambassador at Large, Dr Victoria Sulimani who moderated the opening ceremony explained. Hence, the Radisson Blu training, she hoped, would support the groups attending to meet their reporting obligations. Sierra Leone has been popularizing and implementing the African Charter and the Maputo protocol but timely reporting remained a challenge, she emphasized.

“We are confident that this exercise will strengthen Sierra Leone’s human rights institutions, practices and policies”, keynote speaker, the newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Timothy Musa Kabba said Tuesday.

In 2016, the African Commission issued its recommendations following the review of Sierra Leone’s human rights report. “We are therefore taking steps to bring up-to-date Sierra Leone’s State Reports under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”, the minister said.
The essence of human rights reporting, he said was for governments to monitor human rights situations and where necessary review and update laws, policies and practices to better respect, protect and promote the human rights of their citizens. He said the Sierra Leone government under the leadership of President Bio is investing in human rights and promoting democracy through budgetary support to the Human Rights Commission, judiciary, National Commission for Democracy and other rights-promotion institutions.

He said the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone meets most of the provisions and aspirations of the Maputo Protocol. Where there are shortfalls, however, he said, the government has taken further steps by adopting pro-women policies and enacted legislations, citing the three Gender Acts of 2007, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2019 and the Women’s Empowerment Act of 2022 as examples.
“Today, women in Sierra Leone have the protection of the law so that those who commit rape and other sexual offenses against women and girls could face up to life imprisonment if convicted”, the minister asserted, adding that women lawmakers now account for 30.4% of the elected seats in parliament compared to 14.5% previously.
He appreciated the cross-section of civil society representatives, members of the inter-ministerial committee representing ministries, departments and agencies participating in the validation of Sierra Leone’s human rights report that will be submitted to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
The minister further appreciated the contribution of the Women’s Rights Unit at the Center for Human Rights from the University of Pretoria in South Africa which is helping to strengthen Sierra Leone’s state reporting capabilities.

The Chairperson Human Rights Commission, Patricia Narsu Ndanema expressed delight in the progress being made by Sierra Leone to submit a periodic report and emphasized that reporting creates a platform for the state to showcase the extent it has met human rights state obligations, of respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights within the specified human rights framework.
The chairman of, the National Commission for Democracy, Marian Samu and the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr Isata Mahoi also spoke in support of the partnership that has moved the process to the validation stage.

One of the world’s most comprehensive and progressive women’s human rights instruments, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (‘the Maputo Protocol’) was adopted by Heads of State and Government in Maputo, Mozambique on 11 J

The Protocol guarantees extensive rights to African women and girls and includes progressive provisions on:
• Harmful traditional practices, eg child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM)
• Reproductive health and rights
• Roles in political processes
• Economic empowerment
• Ending violence against women
Human rights groups and civil societies in Sierra Leone including Women’s Forum Sierra Leone, Human Rights Defenders Network, Defence for Children, UPR Monitoring Group and One Family are participating in addition to representatives and members of Inter-Ministerial Committee representing Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. The team will over the two days work with the Center for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria to edit and validate the draft report covering the period 2015-2021. Sierra Leone last submitted its combined human rights reports under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights in 2013.