Sierra Leone: Lack of State commitment with the reporting procedure

Overview 110th Session – Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone was reviewed for the first time by the Human Rights Committee on the 11th and 12th of March 2014. The State failed to send a delegation from Freetown, so the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Office at Geneva had to step in without preparations for complete replies to the Committee. It is also worth noticing that the deadline for the submission of the Initial Report expired in 1997, but it was not until 2012 when it was made available. Moreover, not only were the State Replies to the List of Issues presented on the same day as the Human Rights Committee review, and it was not even the official version.

During the review, the Committee raised several concerns about female genital mutilation, which remains a widespread practice in the country. In particular, the Committee was concerned by Sierra Leone’s intention to increase the minimum age for genital mutilation rather than prohibiting the practice altogether. Committee members also expressed concerns regarding harassment against LGBT persons and other issues such as inadequate conditions in detention centres; the fact that the abortion bill was drafted five years ago and still has not been enacted; the failure of the State to abolish the death penalty and the impunity for crimes committed during the war period.

While responding to these concerns, the Sierra Leone representative identified some impediments for the State to fulfil its obligations under the ICCPR, such as the declining donor support to the government; deep traditional and cultural believes; and impacts of the civil war. However, the Committee urged the State to comply with its obligations under the Covenant by taking immediate concrete steps to address these issues.

The Concluding Observations selected for the follow-up procedure, under which the State should provide information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations within one year, are: paragraph 14 on ensuring that reproductive health services are widely accessible and the adaptation of a bill that includes provision for exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest; paragraph 16 on the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment; and paragraph 20 on pre-trial and arbitrary detention, urgent measures should be taken regarding inmates who have been in pre-trial detention for many years.

The next periodic report should be submitted by the 28th March 2017.

For more information, see the Alternative Report prepared by a coalition of national NGOs with the support of the CCPR-Centre.

The complete video of the review (in English) is available from:

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Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Committee

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