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Sierra Leone

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the human rights situation in Sierra Leone. (85327)

In the fragile peace following its brutal civil war, the human rights situation in Sierra Leone is slowly improving. However, many of the root causes of conflict, including abject poverty, corruption and a lack of access to justice remain. These continue to have an impact on the spectrum of human rights.

The government continue to rebuild its institutions and UK programmes to retrain and restructure the armed forces and police have made a big impact on security, to the extent that UN peacekeepers left at the end of 2005. But Sierra Leoneans are still denied many basic rights, notably in the justice sector, which is inefficient and corruptible. We support a Justice Sector Development Programme aiming to tackle this and an Anti-Corruption Commission to tackle wider malfeasance. There is a free press, but the government can still react harshly to criticism.

We worked hard, with other partners, to achieve the transfer of Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is a major success for defending human rights and ending impunity in the region. We want to ensure that the trial continues to have wide coverage in Sierra Leone so that the people feel that they retain ownership of the process.

The democratic principles of the government will be put to the test by the run-up to 2007 elections, which the UK will both help prepare for, through a UN basket fund, and assist in monitoring.