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Statement on Africa Human Rights Day

Statement on Africa Human Rights Day

October 21, 2011 – The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) joins other countries on the continent and Africans around the world to commemorate Africa Human Rights Day, October 21, 2011, a day to reflect and recommit to the solemn undertaking by African leaders and the African peoples to promote and safeguard human rights on the continent.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter) is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent.  It was developed under the aegis of the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union which, at its 1979 Assembly of Heads of State and Government, adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a committee of experts to draft a continent-wide human rights instrument, similar to those that already existed in Europe and America. The committee produced a draft that was unanimously approved at the OAU’s 1981 Assembly.

The Charter came into effect on 21 October 1986 – in honour of which 21 October was declared “African Human Rights Day”.

The official commemorative events of this day will be held jointly this year by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia on the theme, “Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights”.

The theme for this year’s celebration is most significant, as it does not only underscore the deep rooted values, customs and traditions of the African people in the advancement of human rights and dignity, but also the uniqueness of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

The HRCSL wishes to use this day not only to commend government on its current initiative to honour its treaty body reporting obligations as substantiated by it recent achievement at the Universal Periodic Review, but also to urge and advocate for the fulfillment of its reporting obligations to the Charter which has not been done since it acceded to the African Charter 28 years ago.

The Commission sees this issue as crucial especially when the Charter forms the basis of the African Human Rights System, which unique features include the rights to wealth and natural resources, self-determination and development; and puts all categories of rights on equal legal footing. In addition, it makes provision for the justiciability of all categories of rights – whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural.

The HRCSL also wishes to use this opportunity to call on the Government of Sierra Leone to take immediate measures to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women, an imperative recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone.

The Commission wishes to reassure the Government and People of Sierra Leone that it remains committed to providing the required support in fast-tracking these processes as always, since the protection and promotion of Human Rights remain key elements for sustainable growth and development of each and every nation on the continent and Africa as a whole.

On this Africa Human Rights Day, the HRCSL calls on everyone to work together and redouble our efforts to make human rights a reality for present and future generations of our cherished Continent and to also wish you a happy celebration.

Mustapha M. K. Sesay, Director of Education, Communication and Training

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