A 3 day National Stakeholders conference on justice and Human rights kick-started onTuesday 23 May 2017 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi and is expected to end onThursday 25 May 2017.
This forum is organized by the Ministry of Justice in close collaboration with the UNDP, UNICIEF and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA).
This forum brought together Government officials including prosecutors, judicial officers, law enforcement agencies, prison authorities, representatives of civil society organizations and other relevant partners based in the Gambia and abroad.
The forum according to organizers will help improve country’s constitutional, legal institutional framework together with its strategies, policies and programs in various areas of governance enabling it consolidate democratic gains and align the entire governance architecture with international justice and human rights standards. In his opening statement the Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow underscored that, the transition of the Gambia has already begun. The Chief Justice noted that Transition to a state of democracy based on respect for rule of law, human rights and good governance is by no means an easy task. He added that it is full of challenges, further stating that it is a task which can be, and must be, accomplished.
“Several important steps have already been undertaken in this regard” Mr. Jallow underscored. The Chief Justice however stated that much more remains to be done to build, secure and consolidate the foundation for justice, the rule of law and good government in the Gambia. “A systematic review of the constitutional framework and the content of other laws- Particularly the media and criminal – laws needs to be carried out to provide for a stronger foundation for democratic government, for the fairness of our laws and their consistency with the best standards and practices” the Chief Justice underscored. Speaking on the expectation of the forum, the chief justice said that stakeholders and policy makers will be better equipped to formulate appropriate policies and together as a people enable to make some choices that need to move to a better future for the Gambia.
In his keynote address Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Sierra Leone noted that the crossroads in which the Gambia finds itself is not unique in Africa. “Many countries across the region have a transitioned from violence to peace and have made remarkable socio-economic and political progress Underscored.” by the Attorney General of Sierra Leone. Mr. Kamara noted that a safe model to examine within the peculiar Gambian context could be seen through the establishment of a special panel for truth and reconciliation. In her statement, UN country representative Madam Ade Lekotje noted that this is part of the ongoing efforts of the UN in the Gambia to support the government in delivering effective development results. “The UN system will continue to engage with the government and other key national stakeholders in the pursuit of good governance and sustainable development “Madam Lakotje underscored. Madam Lakotje also commended the new government in placing high priority to improving the quality and dispensation of justice in the Gambia. She added that good justice underpins effective governance overall.
“Where government are accountable and responsive to their citizens then the rule of law is more likely realized, cycles of violence prevented , ensuring the creation of a conducive environment for rapid socio-economic progress “She remarked. She also noted that addressing Human rights violations and violence through dialogue and reconciliation is also important and go a long way towards strengthening social cohesion in communities. On his behalf ZeiRa ‘ad Al Hussein United Nation High Commission For Human Rights, noted that transitional justice is a multi-dimensional process and consists of both judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms, which he said can be sequenced in various ways. “A comprehensive transitional justice include transitional justice process includes four pillars namely, truth-seeking, prosecution initiatives, repatriations to victims of human rights violations and institutional reform to ensure human rights that took place in the pats” Mr. Hussein underscored He added that these four elements , equally important, ensure accountability; justice they serve, provide remedies to victims, promote healing reconciliation, establish independent oversight of the security sector, reform state institutions in order to restore confidence in them. “While the transitional justice process will clearly be Gambian led, and organized in a way that is specific to the Gambia’s individual circumstances, the international community is ready and willing to play an important and supportive role” He disclosed. On his part Abubacarr Tambedou in his remarks, noted that the conference is taken place in a historic moment of the.
He said it is a beginning of a new era and time to work on the future, noting that the Gambia over the past 2 decades have experience an authoritarian rule under the former government. “during this dark days of our country arbitrary arrest , unlawful trial, detention enforce disappearances, abduction torture, secret burials, sexual and gender base violence where perpetrated with impunity all these events took place in the background of an existing constitution and other protective laws, with a judiciary and a legislature” he disclosed. He added that people of the nation were left with distress and traumatized, noting that this served as huge lesson to learn from. Furthermore the attorney general noted that the past 22 years left people with many challenges, particularly in the legal and justice sector. “This stakeholder conference among other objectives will seek to provide a forum for us to kick start with the ambitious reforms agenda to be undertaken by the Ministry of justice “He remarked. He added that “We hope to discuss and exchange ideas on the best of addressing our challenges “He underscored