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Sierra Leone News: EU Boss urges MPs to prepare strong legislation on human rights

Ambassador Vens and HRC Members

Ambassador Tom Vens has urged Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Human Rights Committee (HRC) to be a champion for human rights and a driver for change. “We want you to be well capacitated to prepare strong legislations on human rights, which allows us to be in a position to better respect human rights.” He was speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop organised by the European Union at the Brookfields Hotel on Monday February 4, 2018 on strengthening the capacity of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee on using International Standards to monitor various human rights abuses and violations. He recalled the importance of the Human Rights Committee in preparing better laws for Sierra Leone, and that they should do it to make sure that human rights are respected, which will be done through the strengthening of their capacity and approaches of reporting on the work of the Parliament of Sierra Leone on human rights. The EU budget finances a specific Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights which supports projects in the area of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy. Specifically, this instrument is designed to support civil society to become an effective force for political reform and defence of human rights. In recent years, Ambassador Vens said the EU has funded a series of projects of CSOs that supported Human Rights defence in the country in several issues such as children or labour rights. Mentioning one of these EU initiatives, he said, there is currently an on going project to fight the worst forms of child labour, fight human trafficking and promote decent work. “We have also in the past worked with Prison Watch on improving the human rights situation in places of detention, which involved joint monitoring missions with this committee to correctional centres” he said. In addition, he said, very soon they will be putting clear emphasis on gender-specific projects in order to ensure better access to socio-economic rights and economic empowerment for women in Sierra Leone. More than 90% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are linked to international human rights and labour standards. The SDGs, he said, will only be achieved if principles of participation, accountability and non-discrimination are respected. Hence the importance of human rights based approach in cooperation and development. Chair of HRC, Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao appreciated the EU for answering to their capacity building call in a bid to strengthen their oversight role. “When I took up office, we wrote several letters asking for support, but that call was immediately harken to by the EU and the Ambassador took the time to visit and to see what our situation is and the training is the outcome of that visit” he said. The public, he said, has seen the Committee very proactive and also in familiarising with stakeholders in the sector, “We took up the challenge in partnership with Prison Watch to visit all the prisons in the country and the report will be laid soon in Parliament.” The workshop is a serious engagement with their partners, as 90% of the Committee members are new and coming from diverse backgrounds. “We all have knowledge in other areas and that does not mean that we have knowledge in that specialise area of human rights. So this training will give us insight as to those standards that we are supposed to meet in the discharge of our duties” Hon. Gevao said.

ZJ/7/2/19

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Friday February 9, 2019.

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