The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) in collaboration with Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) has on Wednesday 18th November 2020 started a two day consultative conference to decriminalise petty offences.
The HRCSL Commissioner said the two day consultative talk is aimed at looking at the nature and origin of petty offences, which he said are absolute, adding that “these petty offences were introduced by our colonial masters.” He said during the two days, the commission will engage state and non-state actors, review a proposed national plan to decriminalise petty offences, and develop a roadmap for the progressive realisation of decriminalising petty offences in the country.
Justice of the Appeals Court of Sierra Leone, Justice Miatta Samba, noted that petty offences are still in the country’s law books, but remained hopeful that they will one day be a thing of the past and that people will no longer be sent to prison for them.
She stressed the need for decriminalising petty offences, noting that offences such as loitering, speeding, driving without license, among other, have no victim. She added that decriminalising petty offences is a cause for concern for both the judiciary and parliamentarians, advising that “the decriminalisation of petty offences will not be done by one individual or institution alone, but needs concerted efforts from all and sundry.”
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah, said he was pleased that the consultative talk was being held at a time when the government had just repealed the Public Order Act of 1965, which he said signifies that the government is committed to creating the democratic space.
He disclosed that the government will continue to look into laws that violate human rights, and urged the Human Rights Commission to continue the fight towards decriminalising petty offences. The AG assured that his office will provide the necessary support needed to decriminalise petty offences.
Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, Patricia Narsu Ndanema, applauded her commission as well as the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions for what she described as relentless efforts to decriminalise petty offences.
She added that the development of a national plan to decriminalise petty offences calls for a concerted effort. She therefore urged CSOs and other partners to come on board and help in their own way. Ndanema also stressed the need to decriminalise petty offences by blaming prison overcrowding or congestion on the criminalisation of petty offences.
Deputy Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, Victor Lansana Esq, further reiterated the need to decriminalise petty offences, as it will definitely decongest prisons.
“There are currently 1,116 inmates that are on trial,” he disclosed.
By Sulaiman Karim Sesay