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Cablegate: Sierra Leone: Activists for Democracy And

VZCZCXRO6575
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0215 1271639
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061639Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1901
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000215

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/SEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL SL
SUBJECT: SIERRA LEONE: ACTIVISTS FOR DEMOCRACY AND
DISSIDENTS OUTREACH

REF: STATE 44903

1. The Chief of Mission, working closely with the embassy
team, is pleased to report significant progress in efforts to
achieve the President's Freedom Agenda. As reported recently
in the 2007 Human Rights Report, the Advancing Democracy and
Freedom Report, and the Advancing Democratic Values Act
Strategy Paper, Sierra Leone is currently enjoying relative
stability following a transparent, democratic, and peaceful
national election in 2007. While there are no known
dissidents living in exile or seeking asylum here, the cadre
of democracy and human rights activists is growing regularly.
Both the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission have made
continual outreach efforts through meetings and/or speeches
before members of various non-governmental and international
organizations, as well as Members of Parliament, Government
of Sierra Leone representatives, and members of the press
corps. Mission team members seize upon every opportunity to
discuss democratic principles and human rights issues.

2. The political/human rights officer is responsible for
examining human rights in Sierra Leone and has done an
exhaustive job in researching various issues and conducting
regular outreach with organizations. Since January, poloff
has had in-depth discussions with a number of organizations,
including: Faith Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons;
International Rescue Committee; Center for Victims of
Torture; Alert International; International Organization for
Migration; 50/50 Club; Talking Drum Studio; Peace Volunteers
Corps; American Bar Association; CARE International; Center
for Safe Motherhood Youth and Child Organization; Defense for
Children International; Search for Common Ground; Katanya
Women's Development Association; National Democratic
Institute; Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance; and Youth for
Human Rights International. Ambassador, Deputy Chief of
Mission, and poloff have met with representatives from
relevant international organizations as well, including
UNICEF, UNDP, and ICRC. The poloff also closely monitors the
activities of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is
setting an international precedent for bringing some of the
most heinous human rights offenders in recent history to
judgment in the country where the abuses took place.

3. One important element of post's strategy to support
democracy and human rights in Sierra Leone is through the
Ambassador's Democracy and Human Rights Fund, which currently
supports 5 active projects and will potentially award 6 more
in the coming months following a vetting process of 25
proposals. Ambassador has visited several DHRF projects,
including a prisoner visitation program operated by Prison
Watch and Sierra Leone's court monitoring program.

4. Embassy Freetown is strongly committed to supporting
strengthened democracy and human rights. Although this is a
generally tolerant society where activists are seldom
harassed, there is a need to encourage all citizens,
particularly women, to be vocal about the critical issues
affecting them and their communities. The Ambassador's
consistent message regarding the need for a strong and
independent civil society, as well as a transparent
governance system, is advancing the further entrenchment of
democratic principles and support for universal human rights
in Sierra Leone.
PERRY

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