President Adama Barrow yesterday presided over the opening ceremony of the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which also marked the 30th anniversary of the operationalisation of the African Commission.
The session, from 1 to 15 November at Kairaba Beach Hotel, was designed to afford human rights organisations in various countries within the African Union the opportunity to report on the human rights situations in their individual countries as well as share common ideas for progress.
The forum brought together commissioners of African Commission, foreign ministers of member states, dignitaries from various organs of the African Union, the African Court, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders.
President Barrow told the gathering that The Gambia government recognises the commitment and support of the African Commission in ensuring that human rights are protected in the country despite the uncooperative attitude of the former government.
“The commission never shies away from carrying out its mandate even when it seemed impossible to do so in The Gambia and for this we will remain forever grateful,” he said.
The president acknowledged the tremendous contributions of regional and international human rights organizations, human rights defenders and NGOs, who have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that the unfortunate situation of Gambian people remained on the regional and global political agenda.
He said his government has enacted numerous laws aimed at the protection and promotion of human rights.
Most recently, Barrow said, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, he signed five international treaties including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.
“In the next few months, we intend to ratify many human rights related treaties including the Convention against Torture,” he said.
The Gambian leader said one of the key reforms of his administration is the adoption of a new republican constitution within the shortest time possible and existing constitutional provisions on protection of human rights shall be strengthened in the new constitution.
“It is important to note that human rights protection is not only about enacting laws on paper. Concrete steps must be taken through the creation of institutions, policies and programmes for the full realisation and enjoyment of these rights,” the Gambian leader said.
He explained that his government has developed a national development plan for the period 2018-2021 which will serve as a blueprint for the realisation of goals in various areas of the public service, including security sector reform, administration of justice, the health sector, education, empowerment of women and youth, and addressing children’s issues.
He further said that his government also recognises the need for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission which has been delayed over the past few years.
“Efforts are currently underway to finalise the bill for the establishment of the commission in compliance with the Paris Principles for the first time in the history of the country,” the affirmed.