“Section 16(b) of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act (the Law) excludes the HRCSL from investigating any matter involving human rights violations that occurred before the coming into operation of the Law. The SCA acknowledges the response by the HRCSL that in principle it can intervene in cases of alleged human rights violations that are continuous in nature.
“According to Article 4 (1) of the enabling Law, the mandate of the FIHR is limited to those questions relating to fundamental rights under federal competence and is additionally restricted to matters which no other sectoral body for the promotion and protection of human rights is responsible for.
The FIHR noted that it, de facto, works on a wide variety of human rights issues throughout the country, both at its own initiative and in cooperation with other bodies as prescribed under articles 3 and 7 of the enabling Law. The FIHR informed the SCA about its cooperation on different human rights issues with various public bodies.
The SCA is of the view that the mandate as it is currently enshrined in the enabling Law is not sufficiently broad. The SCA emphasizes that a national institution should possess as broad a mandate as possible, which is to be clearly set forth in a constitutional or legislative text, specifying its sphere of competence.
An NHRI’s mandate should be interpreted in a broad and purposive manner to promote a progressive definition of human rights which includes all rights set out in international, regional, and domestic instruments, including economic, social, and cultural rights. Specifically, the mandate should authorize the full investigation into all alleged human rights violations, including the military, police, and security officers.
The SCA recommends that the FIHR advocates for amendments to its enabling Law, or for the enactment of other legal instruments, to expand and strengthen its mandate beyond the residual federal level.
The SCA understands that the enabling Law envisages an inter-federalisation agreement which, when enacted, would allow among others for a legal basis for the operation of the Consultative Council.
The SCA encourages the NHRI to continue to advocate for the adoption of such an inter-federalization agreement, and for the full implementation of its enabling Law. In addition, according to Article 6 (2)(2) of the enabling Law, the FIHR may hear any person, obtain any information and any document necessary for the assessment of situations falling within its jurisdiction. The enabling Law is, however, silent on the FIHR’s ability to access public premises, including places of deprivation of liberty.
The SCA is of the view that the mandate of an NHRI should authorize unannounced and free access to inspect and examine any public premises, documents, equipment, and assets without prior written notice.
The SCA recommends that the FIHR advocates for amendments to its enabling Law to provide it with unannounced and free access to inspect and examine any public premises, such as places of deprivation of liberty, as well as any documents, equipment, and assets without prior notice.
The SCA refers to Paris Principles A.1, A.2, and A.3 and to its General Observation 1.2 ‘Human rights mandate’.”