Two survivors of Sierra Leone’s 2014 Ebola virus outbreak filed a human rights violation complaint with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on Friday.
The 15-page court filing says the government led by President Ernest Bai Koromo violated citizens’ rights, by failing in its financial responsibility to assure careful controls and accounting of resources in the fight against the virus.
Ebola infected more than 14,000 people in Sierra Leone; more than a fourth of them, including health workers, died. Yet an internal audit found USD$14 million unaccounted for during the first six months of the crisis, with few consequences for any of the responsible authorities.
“Monies that have been set aside for the purpose of combating the Ebola outbreak may have been used for unintended purposes, thereby slowing the government’s response to eradicate the virus,” that audit said. It did not include donor funds from international NGOs or the United Nations.
The new court filing echoes that finding, and claims that Sierra Leone’s failures “led to the loss of one third of the available resources, and was responsible for a greater number of deaths from Ebola than would otherwise have occurred,” the attorneys and NGOs filing the case said in a statement. They include the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, based in The Gambia, and the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) in Sierra Leone.
“In the last three years, Sierra Leoneans have repeatedly demanded accountability and justice for the mismanagement of Ebola response funds, but their demands have fallen on deaf ears,” said CARL executive director Ibrahim Tommy. “This is an effort mainly by victims to hold the State to account as well as help them get a sense of closure.”
In a separate development in October, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said up to $2.1 million of its funds was lost to fraud and collusion in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. The IFRC is conducting its own investigation and is working with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.
Image: UC RUSAL file