Justice Hassan B Jallow has pointed out that transition to a state of democracy
based on respect for the rule of law, human rights and good governance is “by
no means an easy task”.
He said even though it is a task which could and must be accomplished, it is full of challenges.
The Chief Justice made this remark at the opening of a three-day national stakeholders conference on justice and human rights yesterday at Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.
The conference was organised by the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organisations on the theme ‘Addressing the Past for a Better Gambia’.
The gathering brought together many eminent experts whose experience could provide useful guidance to The Gambia government, the people and specific stakeholders in the choice of options available to address the challenges.
Justice Jallow said the Gambian people have chosen the path of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and good governance in its broadest sense as the gateway to peace and progress.
He revealed that the transition to the transformation of the community has already begun with the significant support and assistance of the international community.
It is expected that at the end of the conference, Gambian policymakers would be better equipped to formulate appropriate policies to enable the government to make some of the choices it needs to make to move to a better future for all.
The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Andrea Ori, said the conference is a significant milestone on the pathway to justice and reconciliation in The Gambia.
He paid tribute to the people who lost their lives to bring about the dramatic changes to life in The Gambia, after 22 years.
Mr Andrea noted that the wall of fear and silence has been broken and the desire and determination of people to claim their rights regardless of personal sacrifices and pain is being proven on a daily basis.
He said that the relationship between the state and its people must be built on the rule of law and respect for human rights.
He pointed out that transitional justice is a multi-dimensional process and consists of both judicial and non-judicial processes.
The UN diplomat said during the establishment of transitional justice processes, it was particularly important that the state fulfill its duty to undertake effective investigations and prosecutions of violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law which constitute crimes under international law.
“Amnesties could undermine a state’s obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes,” he said, adding that according to international law and UN policy, amnesties are unacceptable if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who are criminally responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other gross violations of human rights.
Mr Andrea reiterated the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights readiness to support and accompany The Gambia in this important and historical undertaking.
The UN resident coordinator who is also the UNDP resident representative, Ade Lekoedje, said the UN system would continue to engage with The Gambia government and other key national stakeholders in the pursuit of good governance and sustainable development.
She commended the Ministry of Justice for taking the initiative for convening the stakeholders conference on justice and human rights and for ensuring that key institutions, organizations, groups and communities are represented.
Mrs Lekoedje also thanked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for Sierra-Leone, Joseph Kamara, for attending the conference as special guests.
She said as a citizen of Sierra-Leone, a country that has gone through a difficult past, and with a strong experience as a prosecutor including with the Special Court of Sierra-Leone, Hon. Kamara has unique insights into the issues that would be deliberated on and that she looks forward to drawing on this invaluable experience.
Mrs Lekoedje said that the new government has placed a high priority on improving the quality and dispensation of justice in The Gambia.
Other speakers included the Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou and his Sierra-Leonean counterpart, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara.