By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
One of the leading Rights groups operating in the country Christian Legal Centre, popularly known as LEGAL LINK has in an open letter dated 11th September and addressed to the President Julius Maada Bio commended him for showing leadership over the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Saga.
According to the letter, LEGAL LINK said it gives them the greatest joy and delight to be amongst the first of Civil Society Organisations to openly and formally congratulate the President over his exemplary display of leadership regarding the open apology given for the inhumane and degrading treatment of suspects by the ACC.
‘’In the midst of the widespread dissent, outcry, hullabaloo, hustle and bustle and claims and counter claims lashed out by the public and a good number of rights organisations, your swift intervention and timely acknowledgement of the mistake by the Commission has not only succeeded in dissipating the tensions but has further set you apart as a leader with a deep sense of cosmic responsibility and moral rectitude,’’the letter stated.
LEGAL LINK said, as a civil society organization that defends the rights of vulnerable groups in society, they believe their role should not just be limited to holding the state accountable for its excesses, inaction and omissions but also to give compliments and commendations when good initiatives and actions are taken out by state authorities that contribute to social cohesion, nation building and development.
‘’We therefore make bold to say that we at LEGAL LINK are proud of your excellency’s intervention as chief defender of human rights in this matter and would like you to know how much this meant to us. Also, your open apology has further engendered dynamism within us and revitalised and energised our spirits to continue to be the voice of conscience for the nation and demand respect for the fundamental human rights of the people as enshrined under our noble constitution,’’the letter reads.
The Right group said, it is beyond dispute that the fight against corruption under President Bio’s leadership and that of Francis Ben Kaifala has been exceptional stating that Ben Kaifalah’s passion and commitment to the fight has indeed been forthright and exemplary thus extending Kudos to him and the ACC team.
‘’But as you have rightly pointed out, on this singular occasion, the ACC CZAR, in his quest to vigorously address corruption in the country, threw away both the BATH WATER AND THE BABY. It is for good reasons why the UN adopted a framework known as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). This was to principally ensure that states address corruption from a human rights-based approach’’
It said, the African Union has also embraced this thinking when it passed a Protocol on the Prevention and Combating of Corruption for its African member states adding that Sierra Leone is a signatory to the above legal frameworks which put obligations therefore on the state and by extension the ACC to ensure that its policies and strategies in the fight against corruption adopts a human rights based approach.
The letter argued that it is clear from the recent act of the ACC against its suspects that perhaps a human rights-based approach has been lacking in its strategy to fighting corruption in Sierra Leone thus stating that their incessant refusal of the granting bail to suspects in many occasions further corroborates the above assertion in fundamental terms.
‘’But notwithstanding the above however, we at LEGAL LINK have pledged to give our legal expertise free of charge to help review the National Anti- Corruption Strategy and other internal policies at the ACC to ensure that they are in tandem with the human rights-based approach as expressed by UNCAC and the African Union Corruption framework,’’
It reiterated that they have pledged to doing this because they believe in the good work of the ACC and its place and relevance in terms of ensuring transparency and accountability in post conflict Sierra Leone.
‘’Certainly, in our candid view, the mistake done by them in recent times is forgivable as it was occasioned out of good faith as the Commission strive towards eradicating corruption in Sierra Leone. But looking beyond the extra-judicial act of the ACC, we want to draw your Excellency’s attention to a couple of other unfortunate developments that have happened in the country which in our judgment might have the proclivity to undermine the body politic of the nation if not urgently addressed by you’’
They urged the President to look at NEC’s cancellation of the entire Parliamentary re- run elections in constituency 110, the petition cases filed by opposition members and civil society organizations including the recent alleged assault of two female journalists during the Sierra Leone – Liberia football match by guards in the office of the president.
The Human Right group therefore appeal that His Excellency looks into the above issues raised in this letter and take a firm stand against state institutions and officials that disrespects the rule of law, constitution and fundamental human rights of the people of Sierra Leone.
‘’And certainly, it would be an easy work over and perhaps an overwhelming endorsement by the populace if it can be shown clearly by you that you were at no point in time complicit in holding to account officials and institutions within your government that violate fundamental human rights and undermine the body politic of the nation. We wish you all the best in the remaining years of your tenure and once again thank you very much for your leadership over the Anti-Corruption Commission saga,’’the letter ended.