From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
A Judge of the Sierra Leonean High Court, Justice Tonia Barnett, has called for the support of Nigeria and other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries in her quest for the position of Commissioner for the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
Speaking in Abuja at a dinner with ECOWAS envoys accredited to Nigeria, Barnett said her zeal for the position was because the protection of rights had always been her passion.
Diplomats present at the dinner were those of Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Liberia, among others.
Barnett further said that having witnessed war and rights deprivation, she was very committed to the tenets of the position.
“As a woman whose teenage life was 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 my President, Julius Bio, has garnered support from the Judiciary in Sierra Leone and Key civil society organisations, including the human rights organisations,” Barnett said.
Barnett also said with her track record of a judge who has never been investigated and whose morality has never been called to question, she was ably qualified for the job as stipulated by Article 31 of the Charter of African Human and Peoples Rights.
She added that her career as a legal practitioner and judge which were working mainly to protect and promote human rights, were also testimonies to her work experience as a precondition.
“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 citizens.
“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 also said.
Barnett further assured that her election will afford her the opportunity to achieve some of her dreams which include making impact in the lives of Africans in slums and also fostering their rights.