By Alpha Good Kamara
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) recently conducted a Mobile Complaints hearing session in the Moriba Town, Rutile, Imperi Chiefdom of Bonthe District, aimed at addressing pressing human rights concerns within the community. The two-day session, held on August 7th and 8th, 2023, brought together community members, human rights advocates, and officials to discuss and resolve key issues.
The event, which was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Irish Aid, garnered participation from 96 individuals, comprising 42 females and 54 males. Among the attendees was Augusta Nuwomah, a representative of the Women Initiative Forum for Empowerment in the Extractive Industry. Nuwomah emphasized the importance of the HRCSL’s intervention in curbing prevalent sexual harassment and abuse resulting from the influx of people in the mining community.
Nuwomah expressed optimism that the engagement would enhance understanding and confidence among residents, aligning with the information conveyed through radio discussions. She called for regular sessions, suggesting three times a year, to ensure accessibility and build community trust in the complaint handling process.
The session commenced with informative discussions about the HRCSL’s historical role and its Complaint Handling Mechanism, coupled with insights into the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and its 2019 amendments. Leslie Tucker-Thomas, the Paramount Chief of Imperi Chiefdom, applauded the Commission’s efforts in reaching the community directly, highlighting the potential for increased awareness and understanding of human rights issues.
Francess Maseray Kamara from the Family Support Unit (FSU), Rutile Division, noted the timeliness of the engagement, revealing how it broadened her knowledge of human rights principles, including the appropriate treatment of suspects. The engagement received a total of ten complaints, addressing concerns such as access to justice, equal protection before the law, property deprivation, unfair hearings at the Magistrate Court, sexual offenses, and marital disputes.
Commissioner Hassan Samba Yarjah emphasized the significance of involving the youth in promoting a crime-free society, urging attendees to discourage criminal activities and substance abuse. He urged law enforcement personnel to embrace their roles as human rights defenders, recognizing the substantial impact of their work on the lives of individuals.
The hearing served as an effective platform to enhance the community’s understanding of human rights issues, provisions within the Sexual Offences Act, the HRCSL’s Complaints Handling Mechanism, and the Three Gender Justice Laws in Sierra Leone. The HRCSL team also conducted a monitoring visit at the Moriba Town Police Station, further strengthening their commitment to safeguarding human rights.
As the HRCSL’s efforts continue to make a tangible impact in Sierra Leone’s remote communities, the call for regular complaint hearing sessions promises to facilitate ongoing dialogue, education, and resolution of human rights concerns.