#Article (Archive)

Gambia closer to setting up human rights commission

May 24, 2012, 10:47 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Discussions are currently under way between the Commonwealth Secretariat and key stakeholders in the human rights domain, as The Gambia moves closer to the establishment of first- ever Human Rights Commission in the country.

The development comes hot on the heels of a visit last month by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Karmalesh Sharma, to Banjul, during which he held talks with officials of the Gambia government on the possibility of setting up a human rights commission, among others.

The core function of the National Human Rights Commission will be assisting the government in meeting its obligations under international and regional human rights treaties.

At a two-day forum organized by the Attorney General’s Chambers and the ministry of Justice in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat which opened at the Paradise Suites Hotel yesterday, participants brainstormed on the prospects.

The human rights commission will be established under the Paris Principles, which is couched in general terms to promote and protect human rights.

“A national human rights commission is not an NGO; it is created by a statute, funded by the government, usually accountable to the National Assembly, but expected to be independent of Government,” the Attorney General and minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh, said at the opening of the colloquium.

He told the gathering that the pluralistic composition of the national human rights commission creates a critical mass, valuable expertise and resources enabling it to effectively execute its broad mandate and responsibilities at the national level.

“The commission will provide an invaluable link between government, NGOs, civil society and a neutral ground where human rights issues affecting the nation can be discussed from the perceptive of what obtains on the ground and expert advice, to the National Assembly and other competent authorities, through opinion and recommendations on any subject matter concerning promotion and protection of human rights,” Jobarteh said.

“It also allows for the coordination and cooperation among stakeholders, and for the building of viable partnership with the courts, law enforcement institutions and the legislature,” he added.

He noted that a country’s profile in the international human rights community depends to a large extent on its compliance with its reporting obligations under various treaties.

The Gambia, he went on, was for a long time regarded as a non-compliant nation, but the present government has taken steps to reverse the non-compliance profile of The Gambia.

Highlighting the important role and responsibilities of a national human rights commission under the Paris Principles, Justice Minister Jobarteh said such commissions are increasingly seen and used as a mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights in many African countries.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony was advocate Karen McKenzie, acting Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, who said the colloquium was aimed at engaging stakeholders as to the pertinent issues, challenges and constraints to the establishment of national human rights institutions.

According to her, national human rights institutions are critical to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Dr. Henry D.R. Carrol, the chairman of the Law Reform Commission at the ministry of Justice chaired the ceremony.