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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06FREETOWN819
2006-10-05 11:50:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Freetown
Cable title:  

PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEMBERS

Tags:   PHUM  PGOV  KBIO  SL 
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FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
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INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
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						UNCLAS FREETOWN 000819 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KBIO SL
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEMBERS


UNCLAS FREETOWN 000819

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KBIO SL
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MEMBERS



1. On October 3, Parliament confirmed five representatives for the
newly-established Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.


2. The new representatives are:

Jamesfina King: Has a Master's Degree in International Legal Studies
with a focus on Human Rights. She has been in private practice for
the past 12 years and is currently the head of a female lawyers'
organization, "Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality
Rights and Social Justice" (LAWYER) that is working on a female
prisoner project. She is an ethnic Krio from Freetown.

Yasmin Baindu Sandor Jusu-Sheriff: Has an LLM (with merit) in Human
Rights Law and is a well-known human rights advocate and civil
society activist interested in the rights of women and children.
She is married to Dr. Alusine Fofana, Chairman of the Parliamentary
Human Rights Committee. She is an ethnic Mende from southern Sierra
Leone.

Edward Sam: A professional adult educator and an active human rights
activist with years of experience working with the National
Commission for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR). He is an ethnic
Mende from southern Sierra Leone.

Joseph Stanley: An attorney and ex-police officer, Stanley joined
the police in 1957, and rose through the ranks to the position of
Inspector General before retirement in 1993. He is an ethnic Krio
from Freetown.

Rev. Moses Khanu: Khanu has served as head of the Baptist Church and
also president of the Inter Religious Council. He is an ethnic
Limba from northern Sierra Leone.


3. The idea of a human rights commission is not new. When President
Kabbah's democratically elected government took over from the
National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) junta in 1996, he added a
human rights mandate to the National Commission for Democracy, which
the NPRC had formed in 1994. The new National Commission on
Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR) was weak, however, and the 1999
Lome Peace Accord called for the formation of an "autonomous,
quasi-judicial" national Human Rights Commission within 90 days
after the signing of the accord to address people's grievances
regarding alleged human rights violations. No such commission ever
formed and the NCDHR's mandate was never strengthened. In 2004,
Parliament passed legislation mandating a stand-alone Human Rights
Commission and gave it High Court-like powers to call witnesses and
request documents, as well as granting it full access to government
offices and facilities to investigate claims of human rights abuses.



4. Parliament's confirmation of the new commissioners was the
culmination of a year-long process of calls for applications,
interviews, nominations and selections. At the end of 2005, the
civil society panel rejected the first round of nominees as
insufficiently qualified.


5. COMMENT: The new commissioners represent a good regional and
gender balance, although none are Muslim. In a country where 60
percent of their fellow Sierra Leoneans are Muslim this could be a
problem, but Sierra Leone is justifiably proud of its religious
tolerance and it is unlikely that the commission will be faced with
complaints about violations of religious rights. Complaints of
violations against women are much more likely. King and
Jusu-Sheriff have excellent reputations in that regard and could
help the commission do great things under UNIOSIL's watchful eye
(helping the commission is part of UNIOSIL's mandate). Because the
commission's salaries will be paid by the government, however, the
Human Rights Commission will face the same political pressures as
other commissions (e.g., the Anti-Corruption Commission, National
Electoral Commission, and Political Parties Registration
Commission). This will make it difficult for the Commission to
effectively investigate violations of political rights, a valid
concern in light of the presidential and parliamentary elections
scheduled for July 2007. END COMMENT.

PRATT