What is the Legal Instrument Establishing the Commission?
An Act of Parliament (Act No. 9) established HRCSL in 2004 to protect and promote human rights throughout Sierra Leone, based on recommendations of the 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement and the 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.
What is the Composition of the Commission?
The Commission consists of a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three other Commissioners appointed by the President of Sierra Leone at the beginning of each five-year term of the Commission, through a transparent and participatory process involving civil society. The Presidential appointees go through Parliamentary approval as prescribed in the Schedule of the HRCSL Act 2004. Each set of five Commissioners, by law, is required to comprise at least two women and two lawyers.
Which Human Rights does the Commission Address?
Under Sections 1 and 7 of the HRCSL Act 2004, the HRCSL has the mandate to address all rights guaranteed by the 1991 Constitution, or embodied in all international human rights agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party. However, Section 16 of the Act stipulates that HRCSL cannot investigate any matter pending, or already decided by a court of competent jurisdiction or any human rights violation that occurred before August 26, 2004.
How does HRCSL relate with the Courts?
HRCSL is not a substitute for the courts, but it has the power like the courts to investigate or inquire into allegations of human rights violations on its own or on complaint by any person and to report thereon in writing. The Commission can refer to the High Court for contempt any person who refuses, without justifiable cause, to comply with a decision, directive, or order within a specified time. The HRCSL also has power to intervene in legal proceedings involving any human rights matters/issue by issuing amicus curiae briefs.
Is there any Means of Redress against the Commission’s Decisions?
Yes. Any person or group who is/are aggrieved by any decision of the HRCSL may appeal to the Supreme Court.
How Independent is the HRCSL?
Section 14 of the HRCSL Act 2004 guarantees the independence of the institution and states that “except as otherwise provided in the Act, the Commission shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority”, even if such a person or authority provides financial or material support to the Commission.
How are Commissioners Appointed and their Terms Renewed?
The appointment of Commissioners commences with a call for nominations by the President of Sierra Leone through the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. A selection panel of seven, comprising six representatives of civil society interest groups and one from Government interviews the nominees. This Panel, by law, is required to include at least two women.
Each member of the Panel shortlists one candidate and the names published in the Sierra Gazette. Two weeks later, the President selects and appoints five out of the seven or as applicable, based on the number of vacancies, and their names sent to Parliament for approval. Once approved, their names are published again in the Sierra Leone Gazette. The approved Commissioners then take the oath of office administered before the President. Please note also that by tradition, all newly appointed Commissioners and staff go through an induction/orientation.
How is the Chairperson of the Commission Selected?
The five Commissioners of HRCSL by law chose their own Chairperson through a simple majority vote.
What is the tenure of Commissioners?
All Commissioners are appointed by the President to serve for a period of five years and are eligible for reappointment for a (final) second term. This means that no Commissioner can serve the Commission for more than two terms or 10 years. Parliament fixes their terms and conditions of service. The first five-year term of the first set of five Commissioners, namely Edward Sam, Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, Jamesina King, Rev. Moses Khanu and Joseph Stanley ended on December 9, 2011. The President reappointed Commissioners King and Khanu for a second term and the recruitment process for the remaining three is ongoing.
How is a Vacancy filled in the Commission?
Where a temporary vacancy occurs in the membership of the Commission due to death, disability, resignation or dismissal of a member, the President appoints a replacement from among the short-listed list of persons previously considered by the Selection Panel and submitted to him.
What is the Status of the HRCSL as a NHRI under the Paris Principles?
HRCSL is an “A” Status National Human Rights Institution under the Paris Principles. The Commission was accredited this five-year status in 2011 by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) in the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland.
This means that it fulfills the standards set by the UN Paris Principles governing such institutions and can therefore vote, speak and be voted for at the UN Human Rights Council and hold positions of trust within the international human rights arena. The statuses of NHRIs are reviewed after every five years based on compliance with the Paris Principles. Sierra Leone will be reviewed for the second time in 2016.
What is the obligation of Government in responding to Remedial Actions of HRCSL?
The Government is required by law to respond publicly and within 21 days to the specific case, as well as in the more general findings, conclusion and recommendations or other decision made by the Commission as the remedy for a violation of human rights.
How is the Commission Funded?
The Government of Sierra Leone has the primary responsibility to fund the operations of the Commission through regular subventions/funds appropriated by Parliament. HRCSL also receives institutional and programme support in the form of gifts, grants or donations from partners and development agencies, in a manner that does not compromise its independence.