The Human Rights Defenders Network has issued a Policy Brief in Response to COVID-19 Measures and Protection of Human Rights in Sierra Leone.
The policy brief extensively analyzed the situation and provided suggestions and recommendations to Sierra Leone’s government COVID-19 State of Public Emergency, parliament and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice within the context of the country’s human rights obligations particularly in relation to the SIRACUSA PRINCIPLES.
Below are some of the recommendations as per the request of the Human Right Defenders Network:
- Measures to protect the health and safety of healthcare workers.
- Judiciary to set up emergency courts to reduce detention and prison populations.
- Use all legal avenues to substantially reduce or eliminate pretrial detention.
- Moratorium on new arrests and prosecutions of all non-violent offenses.
- Expansive use of diversion for children and their immediate release from detention centers or other juvenile facilities, so they can return to their families.
- Disposition of pending cases to alternatives to incarceration.
- Expansive use of technology in courts and detention centers.
- Increased measures to protect the health and safety of detainees.
- Measures to protect the health and safety of legal aid providers – Judges, Magistrates, State Counsels, Lawyers, Paralegals, etc.
- Upholding democratic ideals during the pandemic response.
- Precautions and preparedness.
- Protecting vulnerable communities: provide livelihood support in case of a lockdown.
- Create space for human rights monitoring and implementation of the regulations.
- Opportunity to seek redress in case of violations and or abuse of regulation.
- Reduce pump price for fuel and review the increase in Flore rates for data use and calls.
- Review the National Disaster Policy to enact National Disaster and Epidemic Law.
- Commercials Banks to suspend all interest on loans during this emergency period.
- Alternative learning opportunities for schools.
- Provide adequate support to quarantine centers and homes including security personnel manning such centers/homes.
The brief stated that there was enough evidence that the pandemic may trigger the government to enact a wave of restrictive laws like for instance the imposition of the curfew order in the Kambia District and this would shrink the civic space.
It also said the State of Public Emergency declared by the President, debated and approved by Parliament did not create an opportunity to engage the public or broad spectrum of stakeholders that may be affected by the proposed regulatory framework. As it seems to be a systematic pattern by successive governments given the challenges faced by ordinary citizens during the EBOLA crisis necessitated the network to develop and present this policy brief for consideration and action by the government.
The brief further went on to discuss an overview of COVID-19 containment measures in the country, a summary of observation, reversed inequality in access to COVID-19 health care, COVID-19 civic space in Sierra Leone.
The Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone (HRDN-SL) is a coalition of human rights civil society organizations and individuals working for the protection and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone. HRDN-SL was established pursuant to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as a local chapter of the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN) based in Togo and through technical support from the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) based in Geneva.