The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA) and AdvocAid have jointly called on the government of Sierra Leone to decriminalize petty offenses during a press conference held in Freetown 10th December 2019 on the African Commission’s Principles on the decriminalization of petty offenses. Petty offenses are minor offenses like loitering, debts and minor traffic offenses which goes with a fine or a short prison sentence. Rebecca Wood, the Executive Director of AdvocAid explained that the purpose of the press conference was to popularize the launching of the principles by the Commission and that the responsibility now falls on the government to take steps towards decriminalizing petty offenses. Summing up, Wood said the reasons for the demand for the decriminalization are that it will reduce overcrowding in the prisons, reduce cost to the prison and judiciary, while it will also serve as an important step towards the protection of human rights. Fabundeh Ansumana, CARL Project Coordinator added that three areas they were looking at in terms of advocacy were: reform of legislations related to petty offenses; reduce sentences for petty offenses; and raise awareness on every human rights issue related to petty offenses.
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Commissioner of the African Commission on human and people’s rights, Jamesina King explained that the commission took steps in order to reduce prison overcrowding, in order to improve justice for the poor and marginalized and promote human rights it adopted these principles in March 2017. The principles advocate a holistic approach to the challenges that arise in Africa. She noted that in all of the prisons in Africa, majority of the inmates are not only young people but also poor people. The OSIWA Program Consultant, Foday Sillah also pledged his organisation’s support to advocate and raise awareness around these issues.
By Edna Browne-Dauphine
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