Sierra Leone

The Human Rights Provisions of the Lome Peace Accord Implementation Bulletin No. 6

Freetown, 30 November 1999
The Bulletin covers the period since November 16. For the preceding period please see Implementation Bulletin No. 5 of 15 November 1999.

Introductory note: The Sierra Leone Human Rights Committee (SLHRC), a consortium of local and international organisations committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, adopted, on 29 July 1999, a mechanism to keep track of the implementation of the human rights provisions of the Lome Peace Accord. The Peace Accord, while dealing extensively with issues of direct relevance to human rights, made no provision for a body specifically and exclusively tasked with supervision of the implementation of the human rights provisions. In view of the importance accorded to human rights issues in the Accord, the SLHRC is therefore to make periodic assessments on the status of each of the key human rights commitments as well as to document steps taken, programmes initiated or achievements made in each thematic area. This assessment will enable the signatories of the Accord and international and civil society actors to be in a position to tailor effective responses to problems and help identify areas in which additional work needs to be done.

This Implementation Bulletin, prepared and edited by the SLHRC Secretariat, based on reports of member organisations, is aimed at providing updates on the implementation of the human rights provisions of the Lome Accord. The Bulletin serves as a progress report and is issued at regular intervals, with wide distribution. While striving for comprehensiveness the Bulletin is not an exhaustive source on all implementation issues. Readers with further data are asked to convey it to the SLHRC with a view to inclusion in future editions.

Cluster 1

Establishment of institutions / mechanisms

Relevant articles in the Accord: VI, VIII, XII, XXV, XXIX, XXVI, and XXXII

A Constitutional Review Committee has been appointed by the President (see details under Cluster 6)

- Joint Monitoring Committee: Has continued to meet regularly

- Committee on Humanitarian Implementation: No new developments since it met for the first time on 16 / 9 / 99.

- Truth and Reconciliation Commission: No further update since The OHCHR consultant on Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed a two-week mission in late October.

- Human Rights Commission: Following the visit of the Special Advisor of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on National Institutions to Sierra Leone in early November efforts are now under way to prepare a draft legislation on the establishment of an independent Human Rights Commission. The draft will be presented to the government soon after its completion.

Cluster 2

Release of combat-related prisoners and abductees

Relevant articles in the Accord: XXI and Statement of 2 June 1999

- The number of abductions now exceeds the number of releases and this continues to cause serious concern. In the areas between Port Loko and Lungi, cases of abductions accompanied by rape and looting of property continue to be received on almost daily basis

- On November 22, Ambassador Francis Okelo of UNAMSIL issued a press statement in which he noted the rising cases of abductions and appealed to the parties of the Lome Peace Accord to respect their human rights commitments by ordering the immediate release of all remaining abductees throughout the country. The Ambassador observed that the ongoing pattern of abuses in some parts of the country raises concern as it violates the law and would, if unchecked, fundamentally undermine the Peace Accord.

Cluster 3

Specific Issues related to Children

Relevant articles in the Accord: XXX, XXXI

- There remain 2400 children registered as missing from the Western Area since the January rebel incursion.

- According to UNICEF there has been no change since 19 children were released to the organization in early November

Cluster 4

Promotion of voluntary return of refugees and IDPs

Relevant articles in the Accord: XXII and XXIII

- A UNHCR protection officer travelled to Guinea to hold consultations with various people and plan for the return of Sierra Leonean refugees in that country. The mission was undertaken in the Forecariah area where there are large numbers of Sierra Leonean refugees waiting to be repatriated.

- UNHCR is also planning a mission to Kambia soon to check on reports of informal return of Sierra Leonean refugees from camps in Guinea. It has been reported that an unidentified number of refugees continues to trickle back into the country through the border points near Pamalap. UNHCR will report on the findings of this mission once it has been undertaken.

- Due to the recent attacks in the Port Loko-Lungi axis the number of displaced people has soared with numbers between 8,000 - 10,000 in Port Loko town. When the security situation allows, the National Technical Committee (NIT), HACU and NCRRR are planning tan assessment mission to the area to evaluate needs in food, shelter and water sanitation.

Cluster 5

Promotion of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights including the issue of humanitarian assistance

Relevant articles in the Accord: VII, XXVII, XXVIII, and XXXI and Statement of 2 June 1999

- The reports of attacks on villages and vehicles in some parts of the Northern Province (especially the Port Loko area) has continued to pose difficulties for humanitarian agencies attempting to carry out basic operations. On 17 November, a vehicle belonging to a humanitarian organization, Children's Aid Direct was intercepted by rebel elements who forced all its occupants, including lactating mothers and malnourished children to walk with them into the bush where some of them were subjected to physical assault including sexual abuse. While some medical, nutrition and food interventions have now been possible in some areas in the North, it has only been after considerable and unsustainable effort. Roads from Freetown to locations in the North continue to be insecure. Assessments of these areas indicated a dire humanitarian situation particularly in the area of food and health care. In sharp contrast to the north, the southern, western and parts of the east continue to be calm, providing relatively good conditions for relief operations.

- The Lungi / Port Loko axis remains very risky for humanitarian activity due to incidents of foraging and related attacks by elements of the former rebels (see above under Cluster 2).

Cluster 6

Promotion of Civil and Political Rights and Constitutional Review

Relevant articles in the Accord: III, X, XII, XVII, and XXIV

-On 25 November 1999 President Kabbah issued a Government notice establishing the Constitutional Review Committee with its membership and terms of reference in keeping with Article X of the Lome Peace Accord. The Committee has the following terms of reference:

· To examine the Constitution with a view to identifying provisions, if any, that prevent the implementation of the Lome Peace Accord in any way; also to ascertain from the experience so far gained of it from both the socio-economic and political points of view, whether the Constitution represents the needs and aspirations of the people of Sierra Leone

· To review the electoral process in relation to the system of Proportional Representation adopted at Parliamentary Elections

· In the light of the findings on the foregoing to make appropriate recommendations to the President not later than the 29 February 2000

The Constitutional Review Committee comprises representatives drawn from a cross-section of Sierra Leonean society including political parties, civil society, professional associations, teachers and students unions, religious community, media and council of Paramount Chiefs.

Mechanism 7

Sensitisation of the community regarding the human rights provisions of the Lome Peace Accord.

- No significant development since last update