The newly-appointed Minister of State 1 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Mohamed Gibril Sesay, has made an impressive debut abroad.
The Minister today delivered an important statement at the 31st Session of the High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva.
SEE THE STATEMENT :
SIERRA LEONE 31st SESSION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF STATE, MFAIC Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay 2nd March 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you greetings from His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Government and People of Sierra Leone. We are honored to address this August body and to congratulate you, Ambassador Choi Kyonglim on your election as President of the Human Rights Council.
In January this year, Sierra Leone subjected itself to the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record. We have some way to go, there are still many challenges along the way, but our commitment is unshakeable. There is no country with as perfect a human rights record as stated in the covenants, but there are countries, and records show that Sierra Leone is one, that have done better than what they were. We see ourselves as a pilgrim-state moving from one way-station to another along the path of human rights, towards the ideals enshrined in our international covenants.
When we look at the global human rights landscape today, we see snapshots of beautiful scenes, but also portraits of shame. Some beautiful landscapes have patches of the ugly, whilst a few show us cold winters of perennial abuse. As one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world, we in Sierra Leone are appalled by the rise of Xenophobia and religious bigotry in many lands, and by talk of refusing refuge to the persecuted by reason of their religion and their race. We see humanitarian crises in the great lakes of Africa and in Iraq, Syria and other places, we condemn terrorism in the Sahel, we see Boko haram and other extremists committing atrocities
Mr. President, we are aware that it is governments, as state representatives that make commitments to ensure human rights in their societies. But society and communities usually have complex ways of hindering states’ capacities for meeting their commitments. On certain issues, at particular points in their history, some states are weaker than their societies. They find it very difficult to impose their human rights commitments. Some times these states are democracies, but societal demands, and political pandering to votes and polls on certain issues act against ideals they have championed in global forums.
In many countries, including Sierra Leone, the writ of cultural practices lodged within these societies are sometimes, and on some issues, more powerful than anything that states can impose. The Sierra Leone state is determined to implement its commitments made in the UPR, but on a number of these, our people and society have to be coaxed, nudged forward. We should be wise enough to make sure that human rights commitments are not only pacts amongst states but also pacts amongst societies on the inviolability of individual rights. That it is not wrong to uphold rights, that it is right to do human rights, it is right to protect rights, right to promote rights.
Mr. President, we are heartened by the greater awareness to rights and the rise of new rainbows of rights in our horizons. That is sure sign that the storms of abuse will subside and a better season of rights is emerging. We are heartened by the increasing attention to women’s right, children’s rights and the right to development. As we reported at our Universal Period Review in January, we have taken several steps to strengthen and promote women and children’s right in our land. We are continuing with a constitutional review process to further entrench rights and strengthen our democracy. We firmly believe in the right to development. In many lands, underdevelopment continues to hamper national capacities for meeting commitments in a sustainable manner. We believe that the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will serve as the litmus test for what we hope to achieve with regard to eradicating extreme poverty and transforming the socio-economic landscape.
Mr. President, we have placed a moratorium on the death penalty, and we have not prosecuted persons with certain behaviourial dispositions that are now considered natural and right in the lands of our development partners. But we also know that the majority in our countries have very conservative viewpoints on these matters, and that some international attempts at imposing certain forms of acceptance on these majorities are reckless and endanger the lives of the persons they are meant to protect. We believe that even with the challenges now faced by minorities in many places, even with armed conflicts ravaging lands, even with the huge challenges the world still faces, the march of human rights in all its facets is ultimately unstoppable. But we must move on to that future with wisdom that the ideals we look forward to do not become the enemy of the not so perfect progress we are making.
Mr. President, ours is a fragile state, whilst we are committed to the ideals and better practices for human rights, we cannot open up all the pressure points on all human rights issues at once, else our state go under, and when that happens all that which have gained tumbles down, as we see today in societies ridden with armed conflicts.
We, in Sierra Leone had once seen our state collapse in the 1990s, and the horrendous abuse and violations committed. But we have moved away from that, conducting several acclaimed democratic elections, holding perpetuators to account, passing gender equity laws, reforming our security agencies, introducing free health care for pregnant women , mothers and children, taking steps to curb harmful cultural practices, opening up the country for development through our Agenda for Change and our Agenda for Prosperity. But just about the time when greater fruits are being borne by these efforts, tragedy in the form of an Ebola virus struck. Many gains were reversed, fledging capacities across many sectors destroyed. But that has not dampened our commitment to rights and reforms, as seen by our review in January barely months after the end of the most devastating Ebola Outbreak in history.
We have now defeated Ebola, but it left us weakened. To gain strength, we have devised a Post Ebola Recovery Programme. Successful implementation of this programme will strengthen our capacities for meeting our commitments to human rights. Human rights would perhaps be easier to implement for States which not only demonstrate the willingness to implement into national norms, the covenants and international obligations which they have agreed to uphold but who also have the resources at their disposal, as well as the technical capacity needed to strengthen basic infrastructure for political, civil, social and economic rights.
During its 2013-2015 membership of the Human Rights Council, Sierra Leone consistently and actively participated in the Universal Period Reviews of 75 countries and initiated or supported various human rights initiatives including resolutions on the death penalty, child rights, early and forced marriage, and the enjoyment of human rights of persons with albinism.
Sierra Leone will be presenting its candidature for re-election to the Human Rights Council for the period 2017 – 2019. We believe that we are part of the link-chain bridging our human rights commitments and partnerships, and which will in the future, foster the promotion of human rights and its sustainable implementation.
Finally, I should like to conclude by reaffirming Sierra Leone’s commitment to the continued engagement in promoting human rights for all, as well as to working with international stakeholders to achieve the objectives we have set ourselves.
We firmly believe in the work of the Human Rights Council and in the same vein, the work of its subsidiary bodies and my government will continue to work closely with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that we remain a locomotive for the change we wish to see.
Thank you, Mr. President.