CHRDI Calls For Policy Changes To Prevent Human Rights Violations

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Campaign for Human Rights and Development International has in a press release dated 21st March 2024, advocated for policy changes in Sierra Leone to prevent human rights violation in the name of national security.

He said they have had numerous interactions with the Sierra Leone Police and the Leadership of the Security Sector via letters and face-to-face meetings informing them about their plans to protest peacefully on 25th March 2024 and requested police security.
But said Unfortunately, the Sierra Leone police have prevented them from proceeding with their planned protest.

This decision, made on March 21st, 2024, according to them, clearly demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to tolerate any visible public protest against their actions towards citizens.

Sadly, this decision also confirms the authorities’ uncompromising stance on suppressing freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

The government of Sierra Leone then said it can maintain its credibility in claiming to progress in democratic development. At the same time, it continues to suppress peaceful protests and legal gatherings that indicates disapproval of its misguided policies or disregard for the rule of law.

In addition, the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education illegally dissolved the University of Sierra Leone Court without any legal basis. It also appointed an unauthorised Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal to act as a caretaker of the university.

The government may not always agree with the decision of the populace to exercise their rights, as outlined in the constitution of Sierra Leone. Once individuals exercise their constitutional rights, the government must ensure a secure environment that upholds their safety, avoids injuries, and prevents arbitrary arrests.

According to CHRDI, these requirements are enshrined in the Constitution and must be upheld by law enforcement agencies in Sierra Leone.

Shamefully, the Sierra Leone Police, they said denied them right to protest peacefully in front of the building of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education. The Ministry provided weak and lazy excuse, citing security reasons as the justification for not approving their request.

”If the government refuses to hold its officers accountable for their unlawful actions, we will,” CHRDI noted.

They furthered that the fundamental rights and freedoms of all individuals must be safeguarded as they are crucial pillars of a democratic society.

The Constitution, according to them, guarantees the right to freedom of assembly in section 26(1), but this right is not absolute. Section 26(2) allows for laws reasonably required for public safety, protecting the freedom of others, imposing restrictions on public officers or members of the defence force, or regulating the establishment of political parties. Therefore, section 17(1) of the Public Order Act 1965 is inconsistent with Section 26(1) of the Constitution. The police can deny approval for a protest if it threatens public safety or the freedom of others and meets any limitations in section 26(2) of the
1991 Constitution.

Sierra Leone ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AFCHPR) on the 21st of September 1983. This charter allows individuals to assemble freely with others if their actions do not endanger public safety. Article 21 of the International Covention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also grants the right to protest, and Sierra Leone ratified this covention on the 23rd of August 1996.

The country recognises the right to peaceful assembly, subject to conformity with the law. To protect this right, Sierra Leone also ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on the 23rd of August 1996, which allows citizens to bring a case to the Human Rights Committee if they believe that the State has violated their rights to Freedom of Assembly, or any other right found in the covenant.

CHRDI said they could not sign off without stating something that should be self-evident, adding that the ability to hold a demonstration was not a special privilege but rather a fundamental right.

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