Rt. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
31st October 2018
RE: Appeal for the re-instatement of Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
The Initiative for Democracy and Rule of Law is a Non- Governmental organization working around Human Rights, Good Governance, Rule of Law and Accountability issues in Sierra Leone.
Reference to the above subject, we wish to draw your attention to the dissolution of the Human Rights Commission in a Public Notice issued by your office dated 26th June 2018.
As we write you this letter, among many other things, the situation has still remained unchanged and the fundamental human rights of the Commissioners are currently being violated as their salaries for the months of August, September and October 2018 have not been paid by the Ministry of Finance.
This is a clear violation of the employment and labour rights of the Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission as provided for under the laws of Sierra Leone and other international labour conventions Sierra Leone has signed and ratified.
As the Chief Human Rights Defender of the nation, we call on you to ensure that the government respects the labour rights of the Commissioners and further guarantee the independence and tenure of the Commissioners since no dismissal letters have been served upon them by your office.
There are laid down procedures under section 4 (3) (g) of the 2004 Human Rights Commission Act and section 137 (7) of the 1991 constitution for their removal if at all the government desires to do this. Until such is done, they remain bonafide employees of the Commission and are entitled to full salary and benefits.
BIO DOES NOT RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS
At such a time when His Excellency has just addressed the UN General Assembly and have made frantic commitments to uphold human rights and democracy tenets in the country, it may not serve the interest of the nation and the presidency well if such suppression of the human rights commissioners continues to fester and persist in the country.
NANHRI, (the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions) a regional organization of 44 National Human Rights Institutions in Africa have expressed concerns over this matter and are even considering options like bringing an action before the ECOWAS COURT on behalf of their colleagues.
GANHRI, ( the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions) an international organization comprising 109 human rights institutions the world over have also made it categorically clear that they will push for the UN to downgrade the Grade ‘A’ STATUS of the country should the situation of the Human Rights Commissioners remains unresolved.
A petition has also been presented recently to the British Prime Minister and the British House of Parliament by demonstrators in the UK over the blatant disregard for human rights, rule of law and constitutionality in the country.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Institutions has also made very strong open statements over this unfortunate action by your government, calling it ‘an attack on human rights and the rule of law in the country’.
In the interest of preventing the downgrading of the country’s Grade A Status and possible legal actions against your government by Human Rights Commissioners and activists from across the world, we are kindly appealing that you speedily intervene by ensuring that the Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission are urgently re-instated, their salaries paid forthwith and their tenure absolutely guaranteed.
There are currently two vacancies in the Commission which requires filling out. It may be expedient for your government to try and fill these vacant positions and resist the urge of replacing the other three commissioners until their 5 years tenure elapse.
It is no gainsaying that our country at the moment is in serious challenge with regards respect for human rights, constitutionality and the rule of law. The Human Rights Commission which has been pivotal in driving the human rights culture agenda in the country has been weakened by the threat from your government to illegally remove them.
It is important to also draw you attention to the fact that in 2020, Sierra Leone will face the UN for the Universal Periodic Review. This blatant violation of the rights of Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission will certainly be a subject of discussion as it has already attracted immense international attention in recent times.
And what an embarrassment this ugly precedent will incur on our country’s human rights credentials and your noble office!
Please do something now to restore sanity back at the Human Rights Commission and guarantee the independence of the Commission as required under section 14 of its enabling legal framework.
History will judge you as wrong if you allow the Human Rights Commissioners to be treated in this inhumane way under your watch with you doing nothing about it. We trust you will do the right thing and put the interest of the nation first above self or party considerations.
We anticipate you quick but positive response.
God bless you as you do.
Initiative for Democracy and Rule of Law*
The Vice President
The Chief Minister
The Hon. Attorney General and Minster of Justice
The Hon. Speaker of the House of Parliament
The Diplomatic and Consular Core