By State House Communications Unit
His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has said that he is proud of his human rights record. He made this declaration on the occasion of the presentation of the 2011 Human Rights Report by the National Human Rights Commission at State House.
President Koroma expressed his satisfaction with the report and reiterated his commitment to continue to support the work of the commission in promoting a culture of human rights in the country.
He also mentioned that the commission had always adhered to its specific constitutional responsibility to submit yearly reports on the activities of the commission touching on the state of human rights in the country. He commended them for this as well as for the successes attained in the year under review.
President Koroma further expressed his delight with parts of the report that specifically cited the achievements of the free health care. He noted that there were always challenges with the provision of health care even in the developed countries, while reaffirming his government’s commitment to address the remaining challenges facing not just the initiative, but also all human rights concerns in the country.
The Chief Executive also noted that since his assumption of office in 2007, no journalist or political opponent has been incarcerated. “A culture of rights is taking hold, there are no political prisoners, no journalist has been incarcerated, no person has been executed under my government, and we are promoting the social rights of vulnerable women and children through the Free Health Care Initiative,” he confidently said.
He however lamented the fact that a handful of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were playing to the gallery by publishing reports that were full of poor statistics all in an effort to attract increase donor support. This, the President said, should not be at the expense of the country.
Commissioner Rev. Moses Khanu of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) noted in his opening statement on the presentation of the State of Human Rights in Sierra Leone in 2011, that the human rights situation in the country was generally satisfactory. He lauded the enactment of the Persons with Disability Act 2011, and noted that such a development was more than welcomed as it would largely help to address the human rights concerns of Persons with Disability when implemented. Rev. Moses Khanu also maintained that the Free Health Care Initiative has drastically reduced maternal and infant mortality rates in the country.
Commissioner Rev. Khanu further revealed that the Commission was granted an “A” Status accreditation for promoting and protecting human rights in Sierra Leone. The award was given by the UN International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) in Geneva.
It could be recalled that Sierra Leone was successfully reviewed for the first time in September 2011 at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council where the Commission and civil society were ably represented.
Rev. Moses Khanu of the Human Rights Commission highlighted the daunting challenges facing the Commission in terms of logistics to enhance their work. He bewailed the prevailing atmosphere of political intolerance and violence in the country, and therefore called on government to address these issues. Excessive use of force by the police was also highlighted by the Commission as a challenge that government should address before elections.
“In conclusion,” Commissioner Khanu said, “let me take this opportunity once again to assure you, the government and people of Sierra Leone that we, Commissioners and staff of HRCSL are committed to work to protect human rights in Sierra Leone, and to work with all stakeholders towards a peaceful free and fair November 2012 elections.”
The presentation ceremony was witnessed by the Minister of Information and Communications, Commissioners and key staff of the HRCSL and the State House Press Corps.