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UEL legal expert addresses human rights violations at UN General Assembly event

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A University of East London (UEL) senior lecturer in commercial and financial law highlighted the need to address human rights violations in Sierra Leone and other African nations at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Dr Iwa Salami’s presentation, ‘Rights Based Approach to Doing Business for Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone’, was delivered at the invitation of the government of Sierra Leone on 27 September at a side event of the General Assembly.

The event, sponsored by the UN’s Development Programme, legal services firm Lexis Nexis and others, gave Dr Salami the opportunity to discuss injustices and propose solutions. 

She said, “My presentation highlighted cases of human rights violations in Sierra Leone by businesses, such as mining firm and companies bribing the police to stop peaceful protest by low-paid employees who want a fair wage.

“These violations have included the use of brute force by police, and have resulted in the displacement of communities through land grabbing to use for mining.”

Dr Salami also discussed other problems brought about by human rights violations. The environmental impact of mining, for example, is pollution in swamplands and streams, which results in insufficient farming land and thereby affects local communities.

Dr Salami said, “I also identified countries where best practices for the protection and respect of human rights by businesses are applied, such as in the Netherlands and Denmark, where government departments address cross-border trade and investment promotion, and implement the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Dr Salami said it is the joint responsibility of States and businesses to ensure that the human rights of citizens and communities are respected by making sure there are laws around human rights, land, anti-bribery, and workers’ rights. Those laws must then be enforced, she added.