Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004

Number of Act: 
Date of assent: 
20 August 2004

Signed this 20th day of August, 2004



The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004

Being an Act to establish a commission for the protection
and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone and to provide for
other related matters.

[26th August, 2004]

Enacted by the President and Members of Parliament in this
present Parliament assembled.



part 1-preliminary

1. Interpretation

PartII-ESTABLISHMENT of commission

2. Establishment of Commission.

3. Composition of Commission.

4. Tenure of members.

5. Immunity of members and staff of Commission.

6. Meetings of Commission.


7. Functions of Commission.

8. Powers of Commission.

9. Access to government offices and information.

10. Duty of impartiality, etc.

11. Payment of compensation to human rights victims.

12. Arnicas briefs by Commission.

13. Government obligation to respond to remedial actions.

14. Independence of Commission.

15. Commission's rules of procedure.

16. Exclusion of jurisdiction.

17. Committees of Commission.

part iv-administrative provisions

18. Executive Secretary and deputy.

19. Other staff of Commission.

20. Decentralization.

21. Funds of Commission.

22. Accounts and audit.

23. Financial year of Commission

24. Annual report of Commission.

25. Amendment of Act No. 15 of 1994.

26. Regulations.


1. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

"Chairman" means the Chairman of the Commission;

"Commission" means the Human Rights Commission
of Sierra Leone established by section 2;

"Constitution" means the Constitution of Sierra
Leone, 1991;

"Executive Secretary" means the Executive Secretary
appointed under section 18;

"human rights" includes the rights relating to life,
liberty, equality and dignity of the individual
protected or guaranteed by the Constitution or
embodied in the international conventions, treaties
and other agreements to which Sierra Leone is a

"violation" includes a contravention, a negation and
neglect or negligence by a public officer in the
prevention of a violation;

"member" means a member of the Commission.


2. (1) There is hereby established a commission to be known
is the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.

(2) The Commission shall be a body corporate, having
perpetual succession and capable of acquiring, holding and disposing
of any property, whether movable or immovable, and of suing and
being sued in its corporate name and, subject to this Act, of performing
all such acts as bodies corporate may by law perform.

(3) The Commission shall have a common seal the use of
which shall be authenticated by the signatures of the Chairman or
the Vice-Chairman and the Executive Secretary or by any other
members, designated in that behalf by the Commission.

3. (1) The Commission shall consist of a Chairman, a Vice-
Chainnan and three other members all of whom shall be appointed
by the President, subject to the approval of Parliament, after they
have been selected in accordance with the procedures prescribed in
the Schedule.

(2) The members of the Commission shall be appointed
from among persons -

(a) of high moral probity who have so
distinguished themselves in their respective
fields as to command the respect of the

(b) of proven record of respect for, and interest
in human rights;

(c) well-versed in the rights contained in Chapter
III of the Constitution and familiar with the
international conventions, treaties and other
agreements relating to human rights:

Provided that the members shall include at
least two lawyers and two women.

(3) Where a temporary vacancy occurs in the membership
of the Commission because of the death, disability, resignation or
dismissal of a member, the President shall appoint a replacement from
among the short-listed persons considered by the Selection Panel
referred to in the Schedule, taking into account the proviso to
subsection (2).

4. (1) The Chairman the Vice-Chairman and other members
of the Commission shall hold office in their personal capacities for a
period of five years and shall be eligible for reappointment for another
period of five years, but no person shall be eligible for reappointment
after the expiration of a second term of office.

(2) A member shall, after his appointment has been
approved by Parliament, relinquish any other post or appointment,
whether in the Government, the Judiciary, as a Member of Parliament
or in any other employment.

(3) A vacancy in the Commission shall occur if-

(a) a member's term expires, whether initially or
after reappointment;

(b) a member dies or is so physically or mentally
incapacitated as to be unable to perform the
functions of his office;

(c) a member becomes bankrupt or insolvent;

(d) the member wilfully fails or refuses to
participate in the work of the Commission
without due cause;

(e) the member becomes a member of a political

(f) the member resigns by written notice
addressed to the President;

(g) the member is dismissed or removed in
accordance with the conditions stipulated in
subsection (7) of section 137 of the
Constitution as if he were a Judge of the
Superior Court of Judicature.

(4) The members of the Commission, including the
Chairman and Vice-Chairman, shall work full-time and shall be paid
such salaries, allowances and other benefits as shall be determined
by Parliament:

Provided that the salary, allowances or other benefit of a
member shall not be altered to his disadvantage during his term of

5. No action, suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against
any person who is or was a member or employee of the Commission
in respect of any decision taken or any act done or omitted to be
done in good faith in the performance of any function under this Act.

6. (1) The Commission shall meet at such time and place as
the Chairman shall determine.

(2) At a meeting of the Commission where he is present,
the Chairman shall preside and, in his absence, the Vice-Chairman or
other member elected by the members present shall preside.

(3) The quorum at a meeting of the Commission shall be


(4) Each member shall have one vote but in the case of an
equality of votes, the Chairman or person presiding shall have a
casting vote.

(5) The Commission may at any time co-opt any person
to advise or otherwise assist the Commission at any of its meetings
but the person coopted shall not vote on any matter for decision by
the Commission.

(6) All acts, matters or tilings authorized or required to
be done by the Commission shall be decided at a meeting where a
quorum is present and the decision is supported by the votes of at
least three members.

(7) Any proposal circulated among all members and
agreed to in writing by three members shall be of the same force or
effect as a decision made at a duly constituted meeting of the
Commission and shall be incorporated in the minutes of the next
succeeding meeting of the Commission:-

Provided that, if a member requires that such proposal be
placed before a meeting of the Commission, this subsection shall not
apply to such proposal.

(8) The Commission shall cause minutes of all of its
meetings to be taken and kept as a public record.


7. (1) The object for which the Commission is established
is the protection and promotion of human rights in Sierra Leone.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1),
it shall be the function of the Commission to-

(a) investigate or inquire into on its own or on
complaint by any person any allegations of
human rights violations and to report thereon
in writing;

(b) promote respect for human rights, through -

(i) public awareness and education
programmes aimed at creating a culture
of human rights in Sierra Leone;

(ii) providing human rights information,
including locating within the
Commission a national human rights
resource and documentation centre;

(iii) publishing guidelines, manuals and
other materials explaining the
obligations of public officials in the
protection of human rights;

(iv) effective co-operation with non-
governmental organisations and other
public - interest bodies engaged in the
field of human rights;

(c) review existing legislation and advise the
Government concerning compliance by such
legislation with the obligations of Sierra
Leone under international treaties or

(d) advise the Government concerning draft
legislation, which may affect human rights;

(e) advise Government concerning preparation
of periodic reports required by international
human rights treaties or agreements to which
Sierra Leone is a party;

(f) monitor and document violations of human
rights in Sierra Leone;

(g) publish an annual report on the State of
Human Rights in Sierra Leone.

8. (1) For the purposes of any investigation under this Act,
the Commission shall have-

(a) such powers, rights and privileges as are
vested in the High Court of Justice or a judge
thereof in a trial in respect of-

(i) enforcing the attendance of witnesses
and examining them on oath affirmation
or otherwise; and

(ii) compelling the production of documents
and other tilings; and

(iii) the issue of a commission or request to
examine witnesses abroad;

and the Rules of Court shall, with the necessary modification, apply
to the exercise of the powers, rights and privileges of the Commission
conferred by this subsection;

(b) the power to issue or make orders or
directions to enforce its decisions, including
measures to protect the life and safety of an
individual and free medical treatment where

(c) power to refer to the High Court for contempt
any person who refuses, without justifiable
cause, to comply with a decision, direction
or order of the Commission within a specified

(2) The oath or affirmation referred to in paragraph (a) of
subsection (1) shall be administered by the Chairman or any other
member or staff of the Commission authorized in that behalf by the

(3) Any person who is aggrieved by any decision of the
Commission made in a report under paragraph (a) of sub-section (2)
of section 7, may appeal to the Supreme Court against such decision.

9. (1) A member of the Commission or any person authorized
in that behalf by such member, shall have access to all government
offices, facilities and places of detention, including prisons, police
cells, remand homes and probation facilities, in order to investigate a
human rights matter initiated by the Commission or brought to the
attention of the Commission as well as access to any non-classified
information in government documents.

(2) Where the President certifies that the giving of any
information or the answering of any question or the production of
any document or tiling might prejudice the security or defence of
Sierra Leone, the prevention, investigation or detection of offences,
or the proceedings of Cabinet relating to matters of a secret or
confidential nature, or that the disclosure would be injurious to the
public interest, the Commission shall have the power to refer the
matter concerned to the Supreme Court, which shall determine whether
the document or other information shall be disclosed, produced or

(3) Subject to subsection (2), nothing in any law which
authorizes or requires the withholding of any document, or the refusal
to answer any question on the ground that the production of the
document or the answering of the question would be injurious to the
public interest shall apply to any investigation or inquiry by the

10. (1) The Commission shall-

(a) be impartial and fair in the conduct of any
investigation or inquiry under this Act;

(b) report in writing the result of the investigation
or inquiry; and

(c) furnish in the report, the reasons for the
conclusions reached or reported.

(2) In publishing the report of any investigation, the
Commission shall have due regard to the rights of those affected,
including their rights to privacy.

11. It shall be lawful for the Commission in its report on an
investigation to recommend the payment of compensation for victims
of human rights violations, their families or legal representatives and
also to award costs in appropriate cases.

12. The Commission may, where it finds it necessary, appoint a
legal practitioner of not less than five years' standing, to intervene,
with leave of the court, in legal proceedings in cases which involve
human rights issues over which the Commission lias competence
but such intervention shall be restricted to issuing
amicus curiae
briefs dealing with the matter in question.

13. The Government shall respond publicly and within 21 days
to the specific case as well as in the more general finding, conclusion
recommendation or other decision made by the Commission as the
remedy for a violation of human rights.

14. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, in the exercise of
its functions under this Act, the Commission shall not be subject to
the control or direction of any person or authority.

15. The Commission may, by statutory instrument, make rules
of procedure, consistent with the rules of natural justice, for the
conduct of investigations or inquiries into human rights, including-

(a) the filing of human rights complaints by
victims, legal representatives or families of
victims, state or non-state or any other party
or member of the public;

(b) the admissibility of complaints;

(c) the proof of facts;

(d) examination of witnesses;

(e) representation by legal practitioners, and
other related matters;

(1) the payment of any compensation under
section 11 and the rendering of financial
assistance, including legal aid, to indigent
citizens of Sierra Leone who are victims of
human rights violations.

16. The Commission's power of investigation under this Act
shall not include the investigation of any matter-

(a) pending before, or already decided by a court
of competent jurisdiction; or

(b) involving any human rights violation that
occurred before the coming into operation of
this Act.

17. (1) For the efficient performance of its functions and so
as to facilitate a thorough study and research into all the substantive
issues within its jurisdiction, the Commission shall appoint at least
four committees each headed by a member of the Commission well-
versed in the subject-matter assigned to the committee concerned,
including a committee for the promotion and protection of the human
rights of women and children.

(2) A committee appointed under subsection (1) shall
consist of persons with the relevant knowledge and experience in the
subject matter assigned to the committee and may invite to its meetings
specialists in various human rights fields either as resource persons
or in such other capacity as the committee shall determine

(3) Any report issued by any committee of the Commission
shall, after consideration and authorization by the Commission be
considered an official report of the Commission.


18. (1) The Commission shall have an Executive Secretary
who shall be appointed by the Commission after consultation with
the Public Service Commission.

(2) The Executive Secretary shall hold office for a term of
five years upon such terms and conditions as shall be determined by
the Commission and shall be eligible for reappointment for one term
only of another five years but no person shall be appointed Executive
Secretary unless he lias-

(a) formal qualification in any profession
relevant or appropriate to the functions of
the Commission; and

(b) such proven ability in public administration
and management as the Commission may

(3) The Executive Secretary shall not be removed from
office, except for reasons which would justify his removal from the
public service.

(4) The Executive Secretary shall be responsible to the
Commission for-

(a) the day-to-day administration of the

(b) the supervision and discipline of the other
staff of the Commission;

(c) the arrangement of the business and the
recording and keeping of the minutes of the
meetings of the Commission;

(d) the initiation and maintenance of high-level
contacts or relations with local interest
groups and international human rights bodies
or institutions, and

(e) performance of such other functions as the
Commission may assign to him.

(5) The Executive Secretary shall attend all substantive
meetings and deliberations of the Commission but shall not be entitled
to vote.

(6) In the performance of his functions under this Act,
the Executive Secretary shall be assisted principally by a Deputy
Executive Secretary who shall be appointed by the Commission upon
such terms and conditions as shall be determined by the Commission.

19. (1) The Commission shall have, in addition to the
Executive Secretary and the Deputy Executive Secretary, such other
staff, including a wide variety of professionals and support staff, as
may be required for the efficient performance of the Commission's
functions, the number of which shall be determined by the Commission
taking into account the budget at the disposal of the Commission.

(2) The Commission may delegate to the Executive
Secretary power for the appointment of such grade or categories of
staff as the Commission may determine.

20. (1) The Commission shall, when funds become available
therefor, establish offices in each provincial headquarters, headed
by senior officials of the Commission designated by the Executive
Secretary for the purpose.

(2) It shall be the responsibility of each provincial office
to gather information on the human rights situation in the province,
accept and process complaints for the consideration of the
Commission and undertake, in collaboration with other interested
parties, the human rights promotion activities in the province.

(3) One member of the Commission shall be charged with
responsibility for coordinating the work of the provincial offices and
shall, after consultation with the heads of the provincial offices and
the Executive Secretary, ensure effective coordination between the
provincial offices and the national headquarters.

21. The activities of the Commission shall be financed by a
fund consisting of-

(a) moneys appropriated by Parliament for the
purposes of the Commission; and

(b) gifts, grants or donations from any person or
authority but only if they are not likely to
compromise the independence of the

22. (1) The Commission shall keep proper books of account
and proper records in relation to them in a form approved by the

(2) The books of account kept under subsection (1) shall
within three months after the end of each financial year, be audited
by the Auditor-General or an auditor appointed by him.

23. The financial year of the Commission shall be the same as
the financial year of the Government.

24. (1) The Commission shall, within three months after the
end of each financial year, submit a report of its activities to the
President and Parliament to be entitled "The State of Human Rights
in Sierra Leone" which shall contain details of-

(a) the ways in which the fundamental rights and
freedoms contained in the Constitution and
in the international and regional agreements
to which Sierra Leone is a party have been
observed or violated;

(b) the steps taken by the Commission to
respect, protect and fulfil human rights,
including results of individual complaints
investigated and interventions and
recommendations made by the Commission
or by any of its committees in respect of
matters brought before them.

(2) Any report submitted under subsection (1) shall
thereafter be published for the information of the public.

25. The National Commission for Democracy and Human
Rights Act, 1994 is amended-

(a) by the repeal and replacement of the short
title thereof with the following:-

"The National Commission for Democracy Act,

(b) by the repeal and replacement of the long
title with the following:-

"Being an Act to establish the National Commission
for Democracy and to provide for other related

(c) in subsection (1) of section 3, by the repeal of
paragraphs (e) and (f).

26. The Commission may, by statutory instrument, make
regulations for giving effect to this Act.

SCHEDULE (Section 3 (1))

Procedure for the Appointment of Members of Commission.

The appointment of the members of the Commission shall follow the following

The President, through the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, shall
invite nominations from the public. The list of nominees shall go through a selection
panel comprising one representative from the Government and each of the following
umbrella organizations;

(a) Inter-Religious Council;

(b) National Forum for Human Rights;

(c) Civil Society Movement;

(d) Council of Paramount Chiefs;

(e) Sierra Leone Women's Forum; and

(I) Sierra Leone Labour Congress.

The selection panel shall include at least two women. Each member of the
selection panel shall short-list one candidate. The name of the 7 short-listed
candidates shall be published in the
Gazette and two weeks later, the selection
panel shall invite the President to appoint 5 of the short-listed candidates for
approval by Parliament.

In selecting persons for appointment by the President, the selection panel
shall give consideration to equitable gender and regional representation. At least
two members of the Commission should be women.

Members of the Commission must be people well-versed in the rights
contained in Chapter III of the Constitution of Sierra Leone and familiar with
international instruments relating to human rights. At least two of the members
must be lawyers.

Once the five members of the Commission appointed by the President have
been approved by Parliament their names shall be published in the

Upon the appointment of the members of the Commission they shall assemble
to elect by simple majority from among themselves a Chairman and Vice-Chairman.

Passed in Parliament this 30th day of July, in the year of our Lord two
thousand and four.


Clerk of Parliament.

This Printed Impression has been carefully compared by me with the Bill
which lias passed Parliament and found by me to be a true and correct printed copy
of the said Bill.


Clerk of Parliament.