The Government of Sierra Leone established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a major transitional justice pillar through the enactment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2000. The Commission was mandated under Section 6 of the TRC Act among other things to “create an impartial historical antecedence of the war; keeping records of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law related to the armed conflict in Sierra Leone, from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement; to address impunity, to respond to the needs of victims, promote healing and reconciliation and to prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered”.
The Commission concluded its work in October 2004 and issued a report in four volumes. A child friendly version of it was co-produced by UNICEF and the Human rights Section of UNAMSIL, the then UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone. The report clearly underscored a number of both internal and external factors which precipitated the conflict, including years of bad governance, endemic corruption and denial of basic human rights.
Both the former and current presidents of Sierra Leone stated and reaffirmed in subsequent occasions their commitment towards true reconciliation as a nation through the lessons learnt from the decade-long war. With this aim the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) was designed as the TRC Follow-up Committee to superintend the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
The Government on 27 June 2005 issued a White paper on the TRC report and welcomed most of the recommendations except the recommendation on the separation of the minister of justice and Attorney General. The civil society expressed dissatisfaction as the Whitepaper did not elaborate much on the government’s strategy with timeline to implement the recommendations.
Development of a matrix of the implementation of the TRC recommendations
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone jointly with UNIOSIL in 2007 developed a Matrix of the status of implementation of the TRC recommendations. The draft Matrix was prepared through inputs provided by the Government ministries and civil society. The first National Consultative Conference which was graced by civil society the government and international community held in November 2007 validated the Matrix. A communiqué issued by the Conference recommended the Government to take the lead in formulating a comprehensive implementing strategy in collaboration with international and local partners and urgently commence the implementation of the Reparations Programme.
In October 2010, the Human Rights Commission and UNIPSIL jointly organized the Second National Consultative Conference which was represented by a cross section of Sierra Leone society and international community. The Conference extensively reviewed the 2007 Matrix and deliberated on the progress made so far and the remaining challenges. After the Conference, the Human Rights Commission requested in writing to all the relevant Government Ministries and agencies responsible for the implementation of the TRC recommendations to provide inputs for the revision of the Matrix. In addition, the Human Rights Commission assisted by UNIPSIL physically visited various agencies in person and collected the necessary information. However there are still gaps in the Matrix which was due to difficulty in receiving relevant information from some of the Ministries. The Conference was an opportunity for the relevant actors to highlight the challenges in implementing the recommendations but very few government representatives participated in the Conference, in particular, absence of crucial government ministries was seriously felt.
Status of the Implementation and remaining challenges – a synopsis of the Matrix
The Matrix analyses the implementation status on the following areas in line with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It has advanced recommendations at four levels namely: imperative, work toward, serious consideration and calls on.
- Protection of human rights and Rule of Law
- Promoting Good Governance, fighting corruption and Mineral resources
- Women, Children and Youths
- Follow up mechanisms
1. Protection of human rights and rule of law
The recommendations under this include abolishment of the death penalty; no ouster of court’s jurisdiction in public emergencies; enshrining human dignity as a fundamental rights; avoiding criminal sanction in sphere of expression; outlawing the use of corporal punishment; repealing of Section 27(4)(d) of the Constitution; establishment of a national human rights commission; ratification of human rights treaties; codification of customary law; creation of new constitution for Sierra Leone; binding code of conduct for judges; separation of the offices of the Attorney General; creation of autonomous judiciary with budgetary independence; local court to be incorporated into the judicial system; introduction of alternative forms of dispute resolution among others.
Some progress was noted in the implementation of the recommendations in this area. The Citizenship Act 1973 was amended in 2006 which repealed relevant section to ensure citizenship is not based on gender. The Child Rights Act was promulgated in 2007 for the protection of the rights of children and the law also prohibits corporal punishment. Three gender laws were passed to protect the rights women and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified with enactment of a law for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. A code of conduct for judges and Magistrate was adopted and a bill is under consideration to bring the local courts under the jurisdiction of judiciary. The government also submitted treaty reports to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and CEDAW.
The recommendations yet to be implemented
A Constitution Reform Commission was constituted in 2007 without linking it to the TRC recommendations. The Commission submitted a report to the Government suggesting a number of amendments including the amendment of the discriminatory provisions. But the review process has been stalled and all the recommendations requiring the amendment of the Constitution have not been implemented including the separation of Attorney General from the Ministry of Justice and abolition of the death penalty among others. Similarly, ratification of a number of human rights treaties including Option Protocol 2 of ICCPR, International Convention of the Protection of All Migrant Workers, CEDAW Option Protocol, Option Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and ILO Conventions 138 and 182 still pending. The treaty reports to some of the human rights conventions, in particular, the reports to CAT, ICCPR, and ICESCR are overdue. A provision in the Public Order Act which criminalizes libel continues to exist.
2. Promoting Good Governance, fighting corruption and Mineral resources
The TRC made a number of recommendations to promote good governance, which includes a number of measures to improve the public administration; code of ethics for senior members of executives; disclosure of money and resources by political parties; limit of contributions to political campaigns; returns of Chiefs to traditional roles and functions; principles of local government to be enshrined in the Constitution; disclosure of financial assets for senior public officials; protection of whistle blowers; prosecution of corruption cases free from political interference and independent prosecution of Anti Corruption Commission; passage of freedom of information legislation; publishing of a regular and detailed account of how government spends proceeds from diamonds; bidding process for mineral exploitation; prohibition of child labour in mining among others.
The country made some progress in the implementation of some of the recommendations. The Anti-Corruption Commission was provided with power to directly prosecute in corruption charges though with the consent of the Attorney General. The Anti-Corruption Act has provisions to protect the whistle blowers. The Political Party Registration Act provides that a political party shall submit a declaration it its assets and expenditure and sources of all funds before the elections.
The recommendations yet to be implemented
The Freedom of Information Bill is still pending and the mining laws have not been amended to discourage the child labour in mining industries. There is no mandatory regular system to publish detailed account of how government spends proceeds from diamonds.
3. Women, Children and Youths
The recommendations made by the TRC in this area includes: Transformation of Ministry of Youth into a National Youth Commission; political parties to ensure 10%candidates for public elections are youth; state of youth report to be tabled before parliament each year; apology to women for abuses sustained in war; repealing of discriminatory laws against women; enactment of legislation to address domestic violence; ratification of Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women; 30% quota for women for all public elections; compulsory education for girls up to senior secondary level; enactment of child rights bill; domestication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; criminalize not sending a child to primary school; removal of hidden fees for primary schools; draft a law criminalizing trafficking; ratify the Optional Protocol on Sale of Children among others.
The country made a significant achievement in implementing recommendations. A National Youth Commission has been constituted, and the President in 2010 apologized to women for their suffering in the war. The Domestic Violence Act, Child Rights Act and the Anti- trafficking Act have been passed.
The recommendations yet to be implemented
Ratification to the Protocol to the African Charter on Women’s Rights, amendment of discriminatory legal provisions; and 30% quota for women in public election is yet to be implemented. No report has been submitted yet in Parliament on youth and no compulsory provision for 10% candidate to be nominated from youths. Compulsory secondary education for girls has not been fully implemented and still there are cases of hidden fees in schools. The challenge remains in sensitizing people on the laws protecting the rights of women and children.
The Reparations Programme is one of the crucial recommendations of the Commission. The ereport stated that the reparations was primarily responsibility of the Government and recommended that many of the reparations measures could fit into existing programmes being implemented by government, civil society and donors. The Commission further recommended that those recommendations, which the government could implement within its existing programmes or through allocation of its resources, should be implemented within a year. Certain measures may take more time to be implemented. These measures should be implemented in the mid to long-term within next 3-6 years. The categories of victims recommended as beneficiaries are: amputees, other war-wounded, victims of sexual violence, and war widows.
The Commission recommended that the victims should be provided with free health care, pensions, education, skills-training, micro-credit projects including community and symbolic reparations. The National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) has been recommended as the implementing agency for the reparations programme. TRC also made suggestion to establish the Special Fund for War Victim and explored the possible sources of funding including additional revenues generated through the mineral resources, once off tax on local and foreign corporate entities, and support from international community among others.
Progress made so far on Reparations
The Government made necessary amendment in the NaCSA Act which provided legal mandate to NaCSA to implement the Reparations programme. The programme was launched in 2009 along with the establishment of the Victims Trust Fund. The UN PBF provided USD 3 Million as a catalystic fund to kick start the programme. NaCSA completed the registration of beneficiaries and provided micro-credit grant of USD 80 to 21,000 beneficiaries. Fistula surgery was conducted to 235 victims of sexual violence. Surgery was also conducted on 36 victims to remove bullets. In addition, educational support was also provided to child victims. A five year strategic plan for 2010-2014 has been developed to continue physical health care, education support, skill training, micro-grants, housing, symbolic reparations and psycho sociological support and pension payment to those who have lost 50 per cent of their earning capacity.
Remaining challenges in the implementation of the reparations programme
There has been very little progress in integrating the reparations programme in the government’s regular plans and programmes. The Trust Fund for War Victims could not attract any significant amount and NaCSA lacks resources to continue the reparations programme as its five-year strategic plan estimates the budget of USD 112 Million. The government has not adopted any mechanism to utilize a percentage of mining revenue for the programme as recommended by TRC.
5. Follow-up mechanism
The Truth and Reconciliation Act requires that the Government shall, upon the publication of the report of the Commission, establish a follow up committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission and to facilitate their recommendations. TRC recommended that the Human Rights Commission should be appointed by the Government to fulfill the role of the follow up committee. The TRC further recommended that, at least, four representatives of civil society.
The Human Rights Commission has written to government to formally nominate the civil society and establish the follow up committee which is yet to be implemented.
Critical Challenges in the implementation
The primary responsibility of the implementation of the TRC recommendations lies with the Government. There have been significant progress in the implementation of some of the crucial recommendations by the Government but in most of the cases no linkage has been made with the TRC recommendations. For example, the Constitutional Review Commission was constituted but no mention was made on the TRC recommendations. The Government lacked a concrete strategy to implement the recommendations with definite timeline. As a result, even those recommendations within the government reach were unattended. For example, the recommendations requiring policy measures, and law reform were delayed. Similarly, there is lack of resources in the implementation of the reparations programme is very critical.
The Government should take ownership of the implementation process by formulating a comprehensive implementation strategy with clear allocation of responsibilities to the relevant government agencies/ministries with clear time frame.
There is a need for the Government to explore the recommended resources for the reparations programme including part of revenue generated from the mining activities.