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What went wrong?

Nov 10, 2014, 10:09 AM

Two United Nations Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions; and on torture and other cruel treatments have said in a report at the end of their mission in The Gambia that they were denied the freedom to investigate thoroughly and independently.

The purpose of their visit includes investigating certain human rights issues, particularly the current level of protection of the right to life in law and in practice, examining whether the country’s legislations are in conformity with international standards, and assessing the situation regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment.

They said the government has prevented them from completing an independent investigation in the course of their mission from 3 to 7 November 2014.

“Due to denial of access to the security wing of Mile 2 prisons to visit those sentenced to lengthy sentences, including the death penalty, an inference must be drawn that there is something important to hide. This incident forced us to suspend this integral part of the visit,” a statement by the UN Special Rapporteurs said.

By this action it can be deduced that something must have gone wrong, for the Gambia government to have invited the two independent UN human rights experts to come and do a fact-finding on issues of human rights in the country, only to be denied access to some places they deemed necessary to conduct their investigations.

Based on this accusation a great deal of the report by the experts might be based on inference because in the absence of facts rumours thrive.

On the other hand, the statement quoted the government as saying that the UN experts have to go by the rules and there are rules that no one should enter or visit inmates in the prisons of The Gambia with such instruments as mobile phones, recorder and the like, which the experts said hindered their work.

Although the experts have accused the Gambia of preventing them completing their “torture and killing” investigations, they have also said they will continue to engage with the Government and all relevant stakeholders to receive more information and clarifications before they present their respective final reports on their visit to the UN Human Rights Council in March and June 2015.

We hope so, as we would like to see a proper conclusion to this undertaking.

It seems the special rapporteurs are just in for that, drawing from their wrap up statement in their press release: “We wish to conclude by reiterating our appreciation to the Government for having invited us to visit the country. We hope that our visit leads to a fruitful cooperation between our mandates and The Gambia,” they said.

“Human rights are not a privilege granted by the few, they are a liberty entitled to all, and human rights, by definition, include the rights of all humans, those in the dawn of life, the dusk of life, or the shadows of life.”

Kay Granger