Speaking during the validation ceremony, the Chairman of HRCSL, Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah said the manual was developed in order to standardize complaints handling procedures with a view to enhancing the NCPD’s capacity to address human rights violations more efficiently. He said the Manual will be educative as it explains the human rights standards and the provisions of rights and privileges for persons with disabilities in the Disability Act 2011 that are applicable in the work of the NCPD.
The Chairman also said that the NCPD which came into operation in 2012 is one of the key institutions the HRCSL is collaborating with in enhancing the rights of persons with disabilities nationwide. Among the core areas of collaboration he said included receiving and investigating human rights complaints, trainings and awareness raising programmes which are crucial to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone’s mandate to protect and promote human rights.
He added that since the inception of HRCSL in 2007, it has observed that the majority of complaints received every year are those who fall within the category of disadvantaged, low income and vulnerable persons who are either afraid or unwilling to file a complaint against alleged violators of human rights. He also said that the Commission noted that persons with disabilities, especially the visual and hearing impaired have challenges in making their complaints redressed by the law enforcement agencies for lack of sign language interpreter and training in handling complainants of this category.
The coming into operations of the NCPD in 2012 makes it possible for persons with disabilities to file their complaints to the Commission. NCPD under Section 6 (1) of the persons with disability Act, 2011 is mandated “to ensure the well-being of persons with disability”, and one of its functions as stated in Section 6 (2) (e) of the Act is to “investigate or inquire into on its own or, on complaint by any person, any allegation of discrimination against a person with disability and issue a report on it”.
The ability of NCPD to provide remedies for the violation of human rights and discrimination is desirable and necessary in order to encourage disable persons complainants to submit a complaint. The absence of such a capability can undermine the effectiveness of the Commission. The complaint mechanism was made simple, accessible, inexpensive and expeditious.
In order to build the confidence and trust of the disable people on the operations of the NCPD, it complaints handling procedure was made to provide remedies after an investigation for a violation of human rights. The remedies available as described by its legal framework, range from reporting and referring the matter to a higher authority such as Parliament, the Attorney-General or other government MDAs for appropriate action to be taken by that body, awarding compensation or damages to the complainant, making an order for a reversal of the action complained of, etc.
Also, in a drive to enhance the capacity of the NCPD to effectively record and update matrix on cases received and as well supported by HRCSL, the Commission will procure office equipment’s which will be donated to NCPD so as to ensure proper recording and updating of matrix of cases coming into the Commission.
In this regard, on 24th July 2017, HRCSL and NCPD signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further strengthen the working relationship of the two Commissions with particular focus on collaboration in the area of Complaints Handling Mechanism and Production of Joint Thematic Report on disability issues.