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Sierra Leone: First hearing of ECOWAS Ebola survivors’ case on July 5

Thursday July 5 has been set for the first hearing in the landmark case brought against the Sierra Leone government over its handling of the deadly 2014 – 2016 Ebola epidemic, APA learnt in Freetown on Monday.The case which will be heard by the Abuja-based Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was brought up by two survivors of the viral hemorrhagic fever disease, backed by a local NGO, the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL).

CARL’s Executive Director, Ibrahim Tommy, said their team of local and foreign lawyers, which include a Gambian, will fly to the Nigerian capital to argue their case in the presence of representatives of the Ebola survivors.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak which began in neighboring Guinea before spreading to Liberia and then Sierra Leone eventually affected 10 countries elsewhere in Africa, America and Europe. Over 11, 300 people died from the epidemic, out of a total of 28,616 cases, most of them in the three Mano River Union countries.

In Sierra Leone alone, about 4000 people were recorded to have survived the outbreak. They have since formed a pressure group under the name the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES), which is backing the litigation against the government.

The case first filed in December 2017, under the government of Ernest Bai Koroma, which presided over the epidemic, seeks compensation for those affected.

In response to the epidemic, the government allocated funds which the office of the country’s Auditor General later found to have been unaccounted for. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the funds were mismanaged and they claimed that that was responsible for deaths of the thousands of their colleagues.

They also argue that the government’s handling of the epidemic amounted to the compromise of their right to life and health and, consequently, violation of right to life. “This wasn’t meant to be against one government, it was meant to be against the government of Sierra Leone.

Government is continuity,” said Mr Tommy, who noted that they hope the new government will have a different disposition to the matter, as to if they will have to use another means to address it. “We just want to have justice. We want to have the truth. We want to help victims to get a sense of closure,” he stressed.

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