By Modou S. Joof
The creation of a Human Rights Commission in The Gambia will provide a “viable avenue” for the citizenry to lodge their complaints on human rights and other violations, according to Claire Mckenzie.
The acting General Secretary, Commonwealth Secretariat, who was speaking last week at a validation of a document on the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in The Gambia, support the significance of an independent human rights institution.
Mckenzie said the proposed NHRC can help draft legislations that are passed through parliament to ensure they are in conformity with international human rights obligations ratified by The Gambia.
While Basirou Mahoney, Solicitor General of The Gambia, guarantees the NHRC will serve as an “independent body” to deal with human rights matters and as a special advisory body to The Gambia Government. He said the Commission will enable the government to achieve the ‘A’ status advocated for by all countries establishing NHRCs.
However, the Office of the Ombudsman noted that the Commission will investigate and make recommendations on several issues including press freedom, conditions of detention centres (prisons) where human rights are violated.
In April 2013, the country’s then Justice Minister Lamin Jobarteh declared: “The Gambia will soon be part of some African States that have a functional independent Human Rights Commission”.
“The African Commission (on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR) has over the years strived to promote and protect human rights in Africa. But we are still facing a number of challenges that disrupt our progress towards development,” Jobarteh told the (April 9-23, 2013) 53rd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR in Banjul.
The tiny West African nation of The Gambia is often criticized for alleged human rights violations.
NGOs from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Zambia and international and regional NGOs like Article19, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Media Foundation for West Africa, said they are “protesting against holding sessions of the African Commission in The Gambia where basics human rights are constantly violated with total impunity”.
Meanwhile, the Government of The Gambia is in the process of establishing a National Human Rights Commission with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat.