Human rights context
Democracy is slowly being re-established after the civil war (1991-2002) that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, has developed as a guarantor of the country's stability. In March 2014, the closure of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone marked the end of more than 15 years of peacekeeping and political operations in Sierra Leone. The government's stated priorities include furthering development - including recovering from the Ebola epidemic - creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption. About 16 ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and Mende. Comprising a small minority, about 2%, are the Krio people, who are descendants of freed African-American and West Indian slaves.
The most significant human rights issues include unlawful killings and abusive treatment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, leading to the arrest of LGBTI individuals; and child labour. In January 2019, the Government launched a commission of inquiry aimed at fighting corruption.
The Office deployed a Human Rights Adviser in January 2019 for three months to finalize an election project which took place in 2018 that aimed at contributing to a peaceful and secure environment during the 2018 election process. The project included included preventive and mitigating activities, such as encouraging peaceful dialogue, peace advocacy, and strengthening of early warning and response systems, as well as strengthening the judiciary for the fast tracking of the settlement and resolution of disputes and offences, including sexual and gender based violence. OHCHR’s role included the mainstreaming of human rights across the project components, developing training materials for the security sector, and training on human rights in the context of elections.
Most recently, the Human Rights Adviser implemented a series of workshops in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission and the Police throughout the country on conflict prevention and mitigation in the context of elections. Previously the Office was involved in strengthening data collection and implementation regarding recommendations coming from the human rights mechanisms, as well as integrating human rights recommendations into United Nations programming, including the United Nations Development Assistance Framework. The Office also supported civil society regarding human rights advocacy and capacity-building activities regarding sexual and gender-based violence.
Sierra Leone is party to 7 out of the 9 core human rights treaties (not yet a party to the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families nor the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances). It also issued a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures. Sierra Leone has received visits from several special procedures mandate holders and most recently by the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste. It also recently accepted a request for a visit by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. There are outstanding requests from the Special Rapporteurs on health; on rights to water and sanitation; and on freedom of expression. The Independent Expert on older persons; and the Working Groups on arbitrary detention and on mercenaries have also requested visits.