Sierra Leone government must respect the independence of National Human Rights Institutions and the rule of law
As representatives of human rights institutions in the Commonwealth we support the statement of UN Expert* Michel Forst, on the dismissal of the Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL).
David Isaac, Chair of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission on behalf of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions has stated that:
We believe that the actions of the Sierra Leone government in dismissing the commissioners without due process is contrary to the rule of law and deeply worrying. We call on the government to reconsider their decision and reinstate the commissioners so that they may serve their full 5-year term as per their appointment in 2017. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) is fully compliant with the Paris Principles and has been since 2011. Independence is a key requirement under these Principles and vital in ensuring that the rights of citizens are respected and those who defend human rights are protected.
HRCSL is a valued member of the Forum and we have received expressions of concern about this situation and support for this statement from fellow members, including; Honorable Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque from the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh; Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and Ms Angie Makwetla, Commissioner responsible for Children’s Rights at the South African Human Rights Commission.
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission pledged his support by stating:
A genuinely independent national human rights institution is vital to a vibrant, mature and healthy democracy; this development is a step in the wrong direction as Sierra Leone emerges from a prolonged period of conflict. As a former chair of the Commonwealth Forum of NHRIs and a chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland I know at first hand the value of an independent Commission being allowed to carry out its role of examining progress in a society without undue fetters.
Our call for action joins those of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) who have written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz. The GANHRI Chair highlighted that “disregard of the dismissal and appointment procedure may impact the international recognition and accreditation status of a National Human Rights Institution”.
*Michel Forst is UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Full statement available here.
The EHRC is the current Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions