The May edition of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law – CARL’s monthly publication under the ‘Support CARL COVID-19 Response’ project, has revealed that “there were alleged brutalities from security personnel against citizens in the enforcement of the curfew regulations”. According to the findings, allegations of human rights violations were made in Bo, Koinadugu, Kenema, Kono, Port Loko (mile 38) and Western Area Rural (Tombo). However, the report noted that monitors did not record any COVID-related human rights violations in the country and no reported fatality arising from the enforcement of the COVID-19 guidelines.
CARL Executive Director Ibrahim Tommy said, “From the findings also there have been complaints from quarantine and isolation homes about the lack of food supplies and other basic amenities from the government. There were instances of persons in quarantine homes running away because there was no food and other facilities like water, electricity…” Tommy said they observed persistent denial from citizens on the existence of COVID-19, especially after the pandemic’s first month in the country, adding, “This has led to the increase of positive cases in some districts like Western Area Urban and Kenema”.
Meanwhile, Tommy said CARL “also observed that there is lack of willingness from institutions set up by government to show the disbursement of funds in the management of the COVID response”. Notwithstanding these challenges, he said they have proffered some recommendations, including: calling on the Human Rights Commission and the Independent Police Complaint Board to investigate these alleged violations perpetrated by police officers, with the view to bringing offenders to justice; calling on government to expedite the payment of allowances of healthcare workers while at the same time ensuring that medical supplies and tools are provided at treatment facilities; and citizens must be responsible by obeying government regulations, especially those relating to wearing facemask in public, social distancing and reporting without delay if they feel sick.
Although CARL applauded the ongoing social mobilization efforts by the government, media and Civil Society, they however said, “Lot more needs to happen to ensure that people understand and are willing to comply with these measures”. Tommy added that “Enforcement is also critical, especially where there is clear evidence that people are just reluctant or unwilling to comply”. The “Support CARL Covid-19 Response” is a six-month project funded with a $40,000 grant from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Under the project, monitors were identified and trained to track COVID-19 response funds, procurement processes and access to goods and services by target beneficiaries, including healthcare workers, health centers and the sick. These monitors also track cases of human rights violations across the project’s operational districts.
By Ophaniel Gooding