The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Irish Aid provided support as the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) conducted its complaints hearing session for the residents of Boajibu Town, situated in Simbaru Chiefdom within the Kenema District.

The objectives were to enhance the Commission’s presence in remote communities, provide public education on its mandate and procedures, and receive residents’ complaints of human rights violations.

At the outset of the hearing, the Commission provided public education to community leaders and residents both within and beyond the township. The focus was on the Commission’s work throughout the years, with special emphasis on Complaint Handling and the amended Sexual Offences Act of 2012. This educational session took place at the Court Barray.

The hearing attracted a total of 100 community people with seventy- three (73) male and twenty-seven (27) female were present. They raised issues about gender-based violence and sexual penetration and urged the Commission to continue its public- education drive on human rights issues.

Iye Diemma one of those in attendance said “I am happy that the HRCSL is here. I never knew that we have an institution with the responsibility of ensuring our rights are always protected. The knowledge I have gained today will improve my understanding about human rights.” She urged the Commission to replicate such engagement in other communities within the district.

A total of eleven (11) complaints were received; seven (7) male and four (4) female. Some of the complaints bordered on marital dispute, police neglect, destruction and deprivation of property,

domestic violence, high fine and property (land) rights. Vandi Kimbo who speak on behalf of the chiefdom said they were pleased to welcome the Commission, putting in that before this time, several people were claiming to be human rights employees without consulting traditional leaders.

He said, “Whatever will be said here today by the HRCSL will be of great value to the people and it can be disseminated to others who are not fortunate to attend,”

Oversight Commissioner for Complaints, Investigation and Leg Services, Commissioner Hassan Samba Yarjah said human rights is about discipline and respect for the rule of law and added that God is the first human rights defender.

“During the monitoring of prisons and detention facilities across the country, the Commission discovered that large numbers of people in those facilities are youths and this cause for concern both at national level and at our local community level,” he said.

Commissioner Yarjah encouraged residents, especially – the youths to make use of opportunity by bringing to the notice of the Commission issues affecting the full enjoyment of their rights. The engagement helped to increase the knowledge of the community people on the Commission, especially its mandate and functions, as well as provisions work of the in the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 as amended in 2019. The HRCSL team also conducted monitoring visits to the police station and the healthcare center.