Truth as Freedom: Promoting Human Rights and Accountability through Access to Information in Sierra Leone (UC Berkeley)

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In its current reconstruction phase, Sierra Leone has made valiant efforts to reckon with its past and develop rule-of-law, historical memory, and accountability for war crimes. However, Sierra Leone has a history of corruption and remains one of the poorest nations on earth. Today, citizens need food, healthcare, and education. But they also need to trust their government. State secrecy breeds distrust and resentment among citizens— traits that can escalate into upheaval. The government has responded to this need by establishing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA laws empower citizens to request and receive information once kept as classified; thereby breaking through walls of secrecy that once concealed state corruption and violence. Equipped with the support of the National Security Archive and extensive professional experience in transitional justice and human rights, Truth as Freedom will harness FOIA’s innovative power to engender respect for human rights in Sierra Leone. Partnering with FOIA experts in the US and the growing citizen-movement for access to information in Sierra Leone, Truth as Freedom will be motivated by two goals: 1) Test and thereby strengthen the enforcement of the new FOIA law by assisting requests filed by local citizens and 2) gather and analyze documents resulting from those requests to build a dossier of potential evidence for human rights-related litigation.

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