Status: public or civil society discussions
Sierra Leone currently does not have a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders). A draft law has been proposed to the government and is pending for approval. The situation of defenders is reported to have improved significantly in the past years. Nevertheless, HRDs continue to face harassment and acts of intimidation when pursuing their work, proving the importance of recent discussions.
A draft bill, the Human Rights Defenders Bill, has been developed by civil society organisations, namely the Sierra Leone Human Rights Defenders Network, Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR, 2022). However, ISHR notes that several fundamental rights were not included in the draft law like the right to be free from stigmatisation and defamation. Discussions with government officials were organised on several occasions, but as of February 2023, the draft has not yet been finalised or presented to Parliament to be voted upon.
Like all UN member states, Sierra Leone is officially monitored by the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; however, the current and previous rapporteurs have not yet visited the country. Sierra Leone is not mentioned in thematic reports published by the UN Special Rapporteur. Sierra Leone also falls under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa. There have been no reports or press releases on Sierra Leone published by the office of the Special Rapporteur.
Sierra Leone is also monitored through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In the latest report of 2021, discussions between authorities and civil society organisations concerning defenders are mentioned, but the draft law is not discussed. Sierra Leone’s representatives did, however, accept and support several recommendations on the protection of defenders, including recommendations to guarantee freedoms of defenders (par. 143.109, 143.110, 143.111, 143.115), end impunity (143.92, 143.93) end arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders (143.112, 143.115). Sierra Leone merely noted the recommendation to adopt legislation for human rights defenders (143.111).
The CIVICUS monitor 2022 classifies Sierra Leone as “obstructed”, which means that “civic space is heavily contested by power holders”. The Freedom House Democracy Index 2022 rates Sierra Leone as “partly free”. Worries namely concern the violent repression of peaceful protests by police and military forces.
Updated in 02/2023