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Ministerial Correction (HL 7015)

Statement made on 23 July 2018

Statement UIN HLWS868

Statement

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office would like to correct the Written Answer given to Baroness Stern on 30 April 2018 [HL 7015]. The question asked whether UK funding was being used, or had been used, to support special criminal sessions in the High Courts of Sierra Leone; and if so, what assessment had been made of whether those sessions had resulted in the passing of death sentences; and whether that funding complied with their Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Human Rights Guidance published in January 2017.

We are only now aware that the answer provided was incorrect, for which we apologise. DFID did support the clearance of a backlog of cases in Sierra Leone through its Access to Security and Justice and Recovery Justice Programmes, which ended in 2016 and earlier this year respectively, some of which will have resulted in the passing of mandatory death sentences. OSJA guidance was considered.

Support for these programmes was only given on the understanding that any death sentences passed would not have been carried out, given the moratorium in place. We continue to lobby to abolish the death penalty in Sierra Leone and work with civil society organisations in the country who advocate for this abolition. The purpose of these programmes was to strengthen court processes and address serious human rights issues, including long periods of detention on remand; unacceptable conditions in prisons; poor access to justice through formal mechanisms; and lack of legal representation for the poorest and most vulnerable. The programmes resulted in a significant reduction in the prison population on remand; reduced prison overcrowding; improved access to security and justice services for women and girls; and enhanced court efficiency.