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Sierra Leon vows to ratify African Court protocol

The rights facility's visit to the country pays off

Thursday August 9, 2018

Headquarters of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania.

By Joe Lihundi

Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha

Sierra Leon will ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and deposit the declaration under Article 34(6) of the protocol, the country’s State House Media and Communications Unit has said in a statement.

The continental court and institution in the framework of the African Union (AU) is concerned with the protection of human rights across the continent.

Although his government did not have enough time yet to look into issues relating to the ratification and declaration of the court, the Sierra Leon President Julius Maada Bio thanked the court for strengthening human and people’s rights across Africa.

In its bid to deepen understanding of the court’s mission among AU member states, the African Court embarked on a sensitisation tour of Sierra Leon last week.

The court’s delegation led by its President, Justice Sylvian Oré, noted at the State House that the election of President Bio ushered in growth of democracy in Sierra Leon.

“The objective of the visit is to explain the role of the court and to plead with you to ratify the protocol and make the declaration to allow (the Sierra Leon) individuals to seek redress in the court in terms of protection of human rights in Africa,” Justice Oré said.

Sierra Leon President Julius Maada Bio (Right) displays a plaque presented to him by the President of the African Court on Human and People’s Right, Justice Sylvain Oré (Left), during a courtesy call at the State House in Freetown. The African Court delegation was in the West African country last week to encourage it to ratify the Protocol establishing the court and deposit special declaration to allow direct access by NGOs and individuals to the court.

“We are new in office but our commitment to human rights is very strong and you can rest assured that we will give this particular issue a positive consideration,” said President Bio, vowing:

“We’ll look at it and consider the ratification and the declaration. My government will look into the issues and take positive measures about them.”

Before it paid the courtesy call on President Bio, the African Court delegation met Dr Alie Kabba, the Sierra Leon’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at his Tower Hill office in Freetown.

A statement from the ministry signed by one Emmanuel Turay says the delegation also met the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice, Human Rights Commissions and Bar Association, among others.

Justice Oré updated Dr Kabba on the status of the African Court and the need for Sierra Leon to ratify the protocol and deposit its declaration, as he extended the court’s gratitude for the warm reception accorded to him and the delegation.

On his part, Dr Kabba said the new direction agenda of the Sierra Leon President Julius Maada Bio’s flagship programme was committed to make every citizen feel and believe to be an integral part of an inseparable and indivisible country.

The Sierra Leone Foreign Minister, Dr Alie Kabba(Centre) with President of African Court, Justice Sylvian Ore’(Right) and Justice Gerald Niyungeko also of the court.

“Our government promotes inclusive politics, inclusive governance and inclusive development as the only guarantor for enduring peace and security”, Dr Kabba said.

He assured the African Court envoys of his ministry’s commitment to the ratification of the Protocol. “The New Direction agenda is committed to promoting and protecting fundamental human rights of our compatriots”, he concluded.

The African Court’s sensitisation tour of Sierra Leon culminated with a seminar for the country’s human rights stakeholders held at the ministry’s conference hall over the weekend.

Thirty out of 55 AU member states have so far ratified the protocol and only eight of them have deposited their declaration, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania and Tunisia.

Much as the protocol provides for direct access to the court by non-governmental organisations and individuals on the continent, Sierra Leon and other AU member states dragging their feet to comply with it, are denying their citizenry of the opportunity.

The court was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol).

The delegation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights led by the President of the court, Justice Sylvian Ore’ (Seated Left), poses for a picture with the Sierra Leone Foreign Minister, Dr Alie Kabba (Seated Centre), in the country recently. PHOTOs | COURTESY OF SIERRA LEON STATE HOUSE

Member states of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted the protocol in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 1998, before it came into force on January 25, 2004, when over 15 countries had ratified.

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