Years of a brutal conflict interrupted associational activity in Sierra Leone, leaving the more than 50 human rights NGOs that are committed to affecting their country's post-conflict transition without the requisite skills, institutional stability and outreach capacity to do so. Another casualty of conflict in Sierra Leone is the country's justice sector.
Soon after launching our Sierra Leone program, IHRLG began training local human rights NGOs in applying specific human rights skills, such as documenting abuses, interviewing witnesses, producing reports, disseminating information and developing media strategies. Our capacity building strategy also includes an advocacy component that emphasizes the development of strategies to address documented human rights abuses through information campaigns, human rights litigation, legislative initiatives and well-placed appeals to international human rights mechanisms.
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 will build the capacity of local NGOs to use international norms and mechanisms for domestic law reform and assisting in the coordination of the scattered legal assistance efforts and a more strategic use of those existing resources to address systematic deficiencies within the post-conflict legal environment in the country. Drawing on our work in Cambodia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are developing activities to address the need for increased equitable access to justice through supporting important human rights cases within the judicial system based on a strategic impact model of human rights litigation and local structures for the provision of legal aid to indigents in both criminal and civil cases. (Click here to read about IHRLG's Strategic Human Rights Lawyering Initiative.)
Recent IHRLG activities to build the capacity of human rights NGOs and strengthen legal services include
- Training and partnering with the National Forum for Human Rights (NFHR) (a coalition of 27 local civil society organizations) to hone members' documentation and advocacy skills, strengthen the workings of the coalition and increase the NFHR's visibility as a critical actor in Sierra Leone's achievement of peace, implementation of post-conflict justice and transition to democracy.
- Inviting representatives from the NFHR and the Child Rights Monitoring Network (a consortium working within the Council of Churches) and to participate in IHRLG's 2001 annual international advocacy training program (Advocacy Bridge) conducted in our Washington office and at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
- Providing crucial support for a major Rule of Law Conference conducted in partnership with the Sierra Leone Bar Association, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone and a local NGO. The Conference provided an essential first opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to discuss the multi-faceted challenges of rebuilding Sierra Leone's justice system and to identify priorities for economic assistance relating to rule of law programs.