The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has recommended in their Special Elections Report that while the need for robust security must never be downplayed in public elections, it would be important that armed military personnel be restricted from carrying arms into polling stations.
During the run-off presidential election, armed military officers were visible in polling stations across the capital city, Freetown, and elsewhere in the country, a move which scared away some eligible voters from exercising their franchise.
The move to deploy armed men in polling stations was criticised by members of the public, local and international observer groups and civil society organisations, who viewed it as intimidating.
The report, which was launched on Tuesday, June 26, noted that such public display of arms at polling stations on polling day might be intimidating to voters as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance requires that elections should not only be free and fair, but must be free from fear.
The reports also stated that the over-securitisation of public elections by the Sierra Leone Police may not only be intimidating to voters, but could also serve as a precursor to violation of fundamental human rights.
During the launch of the report, the commission's chairperson, Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah, said the commission was actively involved during the 2018 elections and undertook several activities in a bid to enhance a culture of respect for human rights before, during and after the elections.
Also, while explaining the methodology used in preparing the report, Commissioner Rashid Dumbuya said a total of 16 teams, each compromising three or four people, were deployed to monitor the elections.
"This report is narrative of the various election related activities undertaken in fulfillment of our mandate as a commission to protect and promote human rights in Sierra Leone," he said.