The parliamentary committee on human rights, journalists, political parties, security forces and many other stakeholders yesterday met at Committee Room No1, Parliament Building, Tower Hill in Freetown to critically look at the US State Department’s human rights report.
The US ambassador, Thomas Hull, accepted that “the document is not intended to be a comprehensive compendium of human rights violations.”He pointed out that the report followed a prescribed format that made such reports from throughout the world consistent in their presentation.
The ambassador stressed also that, “the credibility of the report depends on its accuracy and we go to great lengths to verify reports and allegations”
He however asked that if anyone thought they had been accurate, or unfair they wanted feed backs because they wanted the report to be objective and credible.
The US ambassador humbly submitted that, “I have no doubt that among you there are some who would take issue with the report, depending on your predisposition, as being too benign or too critical, too neutral or too political, pro-government or anti-government, or even as culturally insensitive.”
The report came under serious criticisms from especially the police represented by Assistant Inspector General Chris Charlie who described it as “spurious.”
He noted that an incident of a police beating his wife, which was cited in the report, would be seen as generally sanctioned by the police and as a result presenting the force as unprofessional. He also stressed that, “the report is contradictory and bias”.
The UNHCR also challenged the report on the “protection of refugees” wherein in it the US State Department said that according to UNHCR the government did not provide temporary protection for certain individuals who might not qualify as refugees under 1951 convention and 1967 protocol. The UNHCR were saying that they never made those statements to the State Department.
The students’ representative said “the report is inciting when talking about the controversial Biriwa chieftaincy elections, saying that the winner of that election is of the same tribe with the president- which will mean that the president supported the winner on tribal sentiments”.
Still under scrutiny, some stakeholders identified gaps in the report as not encompassing economic and social rights, environmental rights, and also the mining sector.
The absence on comments on the death penalty was highlighted, and also the silence on the rights of the handicapped.