Justice Tonia Barnett, a nominee of Sierra Leone for the position of Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, has sought the support of diplomats from African states for her candidature.
The term of the current Commissioner of the commission, Solomon Ayele Dersso, from Ethiopia would end in 2021.
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The Sierra Leonean judge hosted Ambassadors and High Commissioners from African countries in Abuja, weekend, where she declared interest in the rights protection job.
Diplomats from Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Liberia among others, were all seen at the event.
Barnett said that protection of rights had always been her passion. She therefore asked for the support of their home governments for her candidacy.
“As a woman whose teenage life were robbed by rebel incursion in Sierra Leone, my upbringing made me strong and has given me an opportunity to be here tonight.
“My nomination by President Julius Bio has garnered support from the Judiciary in Sierra Leone and key civil society organisations including the human rights organisation,” she said.
Barnett noted that, as a judge, she had never been investigated and her morality was never questioned, saying she had met the qualification criteria for the job as stipulated by Article 31 of the Charter of African Human and Peoples Rights.
“Before I was appointed judge, I was a Magistrate for 11 years, hearing and determining sexual abuse cases, cruelty to children.
“As a judge of the High Court, I hear and determine cases that border on human rights. Cases like the right to family life, rights of association and right to belong to political parties.
“These are rights that border on the African Charter and human rights, treaties and conventions.
“Presently in Sierra Leone, the Chief Justice is pushing very hard to ensure that access to justice is a right and must be enhanced and enjoyed by every citizen.
“We hold the view that it is not only fair hearing, but you must have the right to make a complaint and be heard by a competent court,” Barnett said.
The nominee said her belief in human rights resulted in a perceived controversial bail which she granted a frail-looking 75-year-old man who had prostate cancer in a case of sexual abuse.
She held that the man had not been found guilty and could not be allowed to suffer in the poor prison facilities in his old age and health condition while the case was being determined.
The AU nominee recalled that her passion for human rights and fair hearing was kindled during the war when she saw a man hacked to death over an accusation even without hearing from him.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, established in 1987, is based in Banjul, Gambia.