Sierra Leone's 9-year civil war was marked by horrific and massive atrocities committed against civilians (including the amputation of limbs), the death of thousands of people, the internal displacement of two-thirds of the population and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to neighboring countries. A shaky peace was established with the signing of Lomé Accord in July 1999 by the Sierra Leone government and the leadership of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the main rebel group. In May 2000, ongoing violations of the peace agreement culminated in renewed fighting and attacks on United Nations peacekeeping forces. With the assistance of additional British troops, peace was restored and hundreds of RUF soldiers, including RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, were captured. Since that time, substantial progress has been made toward building a stable peace in Sierra Leone, and thousands of combatants have been disarmed.
In 1999, Gay McDougall, IHRLG Executive Director, joined Mary Robinson, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, and a UN team in supporting the peace process and monitoring the human rights situation. During this visit, local human rights groups requested IHRLG support in building their capacity to address ongoing egregious human rights violations in Sierra Leone. Peggy Hicks, IHRLG Director of Programs and General Counsel, worked as an expert consultant to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1999, and has traveled frequently to Sierra Leone since that time to provide assistance relating to the TRC and to help develop IHRLG's program of support for Sierra Leonean human rights organizations. After extensive consultations with local human rights activists, IHRLG launched our Sierra Leone program in January 2001 and opened our office in Freetown in May 2001.
The IHRLG Sierra Leone team trains and partners with civil society groups in documenting and addressing human rights violations. We also work with Sierra Leonean groups to develop and implement a nationwide sensitization campaign on the TRC. As the building of a just legislative and constitutional framework for human rights protections is central to the country's successful transition to a stable peace, IHRLG is assisting local NGOs with proposing, drafting and advocating the adoption of new legislation that complies with international human rights conventions.
We also assist our local partners in developing a gender balance within NGOs, adopting a gender perspective of human rights work, and ensuring that redress for crimes against women committed during and since the civil war (including rape and sexual slavery).
Click on the links below to learn more about IHRLG activities in Sierra Leone
Building the capacity of human rights NGOs and strengthening legal services
Supporting NGO involvement in the country's Truth and Reconciliation process
Promoting women's human rights to physical integrity and equal access to justice