Representatives of the Child Protection Section of UNCEF Sierra Leone and the Consultant from the UN Peace-Building Fund, and the Legal Aid Board discussed the June 2023 Elections at the Legal Aid Board head office in Freetown on Tuesday, 11 April 2023.
The discussion focused on Legal Education electoral laws, and legal assistance and representation for children and others who commit electoral offences. The former involves school outreach events while the latter involves legal assistance to juveniles under police investigations and legal representation for those who are charged to court.
The Board’s Executive Director, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said the Board will also provide legal assistance to children and others before the Local and Informal Courts for elections-related disputes and minor offences at the community level.
In addition, the Board will also use its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)/Mediation Panel to settle elections-related community-level disputes and minor offences such as fighting, threatening remarks, disorderly behaviour and abusive language relating to children. The ADR/Mediation will bring about speedy resolution of matters before they could threaten the peace of the community.
Ms. Claire Carlton-Hanciles spoke about the Board’s Anti-Elections Violence Campaign which was launched on 8 March 2023. She noted that the campaign is dedicated to ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections before, during and after the elections.
She informed her guests that staff of the Board have been trained on electoral laws; in addition, 12 motorbikes have been distributed to Paralegals in 12 of the 16 districts. She noted that school outreach events on the electoral laws have already commenced.
Responding to a question from Consultant from the UN Peace-building Fund, Dariusz Dziewanski on how the challenges of the March 2018 Elections compare with those of the June 2023 Elections, Ms. Carlton-Hanciles spoke about the elections-related violence during rallies in the last elections. Also, there were cases of violence resulting from the destruction of election posters, billboards and ballot boxes.
The representatives of the Child Protection Section of UNICEF at the meeting were Neha Naidu, Hyunjung Lee and Stefano Schwarz.