By Ishmael Turay
In the continuation of its mandate and to capacitate itself, Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) on Tuesday 1st October, 2019 held its first referral partnership meeting at its Head quarters’ Conference room on Tower Hill in Freetown. This is HRCSL’s 8th referral partnership meeting since its last meeting in November 21st, 2018.
HRCSL collaborates with various Ministries, Departments and Agencies/Organization that are most suited to address certain complaints brought to the Commission. These complaints are sent to these partners for redress and are monitored regularly through effective collaboration born out from the referral partnership forum and policy.
The referral partnership forum had endorsed during its second meeting its referral partnership policy and its term of reference. The policy seeks to solidify its relationship with partner institutions and establish effective partnership with them in order to synergize the efforts of collaboration in dealing with referred cases through its quarterly referred partnership fora.
Welcoming the partners, the Director of Complaints Investigations and Legal Services, Doris Sonsiama said that the aim of the partnership meeting was to give and obtain information from the different partners on cases referred to them. She also mentioned that the provision of that relevant information from partners on referred cases would greatly help in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
In her opening remarks, the Chairperson of HRCSL, Mrs. Patricia Narsu Ndenema whilst applauding the collaboration from the referral partners, welcomed the strategic partners to its first referral meeting since appointed five months ago as Commissioners.
She said “the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone requires the partnership of all partners in the protection and promotion of Human Rights issues in Sierra Leone.” She further noted that “there has been positive relationship with the Criminal Investigations Department, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others as the main aim is to have a forum for learning and communicating with all partners to ensure the culture of human rights prevails in the country”.
Continuing, the Chairperson said the HRCSL were ready to champion the fight to protect and promote human rights in the country especially in the promotion and protection of women and children’s rights. She highlighted that “it is in that regard that we have decided to establish the Directorate of Gender and Children’s Affairs from a Unit within the Commission”.
The rationale, she went on, is to ensure that women and children’s rights issues are treated with utmost priority and urgency. This will also open the relationship to work with the Children`s Commission. In addition, the Chairperson says as a Commission they will be working with the Ministry of Basic Education in the monitoring process to ensure that the Free Quality School Education is achievable. “Therefore, every partner is important to the Commission” she concluded.
Updates, human rights issues, feedback and report on cases the Commission had referred to it partners and those referred to the Commission were discussed.
The Executive Secretary of HRCSL, Joseph Kamara encouraged all partners to promptly respond to referred cases forwarded to them by the human rights commission. Commissioner, Simitie Lavaly, emphasized that “it is the mandate of the commission to look into actions of public officials in relations to human rights and we want the public to get redress when they come to the commission.”
The meeting ended with the firmed commitment of all strategic partners in playing equal efforts in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
The referral partners that attended the meeting were the National Commission for Persons with Disability, the Independent Media Commission, the Sierra Leone Police/CID/Transnational Organized Crime Unit, the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Independent Police Partnership Board, the Political Parties Registration Commission, the Children Commission, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Legal Aid Board, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Tertiary Education, The Anti- Corruption Commission and L.A.W.Y.E.R.S.