Opening Speech by Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia

Opening Address of the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission
on Human and Peoples' Rights
on the 28th of April 2011
at the Kairaba Beach Hotel
by
Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice



Your Excellency, Madam Commissioner Reine Alapini Gamsou of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
Excellencies. Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights,
The Executive Secretary to the African Commission,
My Lord The Honorable Chie Justice,
The Honorable Minister for Foreign Affaires and Gambian living abroad,
Honorable Ministers of States here present or duly represented,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
State Delegates representing the Member States of the African Union,
Representative of National and International Human Rights Organizations,
Representative of Civil Society organizations,
Members of the Press,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All other protocol respectively observed,
Representative of Civil Society organizations


On behalf of his Excellency, the President of The Republic of The Gambia, Professor Dr Yahya A.J.J.JAMMEH, the Government and people of the Republic of the Gambia, and on behalf of the Honorable Attorney General and Minister of Justice, I welcome you all to the 49th Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. We are pleased to be holding this session and transmit my sincere sentiment of gratitude for responding en masses to this invitation The Government of The Gambia re-affirms its commitment to the work of the Commission and continues to welcome the hosting of the Commission in this beautiful and peaceful country and I say thank you for coming.

Hon Chairperson

It is evident today that economic growth alone will not be sufficient without the necessary conditions to sustain peace, this Hon Chairperson brings us back to the need to expand fundamental rights; reviving sustainable peace building foundations; preventing new conflicts and the promotion of equitable financial adjustment measures.

Hon Chairperson

The reoccurrence of Electoral conflicts in some African countries is indeed alarming, a case in point is the recent unrest in Ivory Coast which has plummeted into a civil war claming thousands of lives and leaving 2 million people displaced.

The resumption of civil war in Libya and the killings of innocent citizens demands urgent action, the impact of these civil unrest and full blown wars is devastating, Libya has disintegrated and fell behind, gearing into subsequent economic collapse as consequences of war.

Hon Chairperson

This underscore the need for a holistic approach to the sub regional and regional dimension of these conflicts by broadening the scope of human rights to incorporate the fundamental rights and protection of marginalize groups. Therefore the bridging of intuition foundations geared towards the expansion of social justice system guided by democratic principles,, accountability and the rule of law which is central to sustainable peace could not be over emphasized. The absence of such institution foundations has caused violence and social instability which has benefited no one.

In this context African Leaders should explicitly enjoined to play a lead role in addressing national grievances promoting and protecting human rights in the interest of peace and sustainable peace. In recent years we have witnessed great strides in the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in some parts of our continent but much more needs to be done and is yet to be achieved in other parts.

However, I am optimistic that amidst reoccurrence of electoral violence and civil conflicts, we have made significant progress in some areas for instance the creation of two continental courts the African court on Human and Peoples’ Rights created in 1998 and the African Court of Justice created in 2002. There is no doubt that these courts have the expected impact in addressing and curbing human rights violation on the continent especially in the area of non compliance by states. To this end the African Commission and these Courts are the bodies before which African states parties to the Charter are accountable in the way in which they treat human being within their boundaries.

Hon Chairperson

It is evident today the African Commission in fulfilling its mandate has made significant stride in numerous areas, nevertheless I urge the African Commission to seek synergies between electoral violence and conflict prevention and continue in working tirelessly with member states to implement its mandate to monitor, protect and promote human rights.

The promotion and protection of human rights in Africa is the primary responsibility of states because it is only when human rights are guarantee, promoted and protected, that one could say human security has become a reality. It is evident today the need for African leaders to adapt strategies to make the protection of human right outlined in the African Charter more attainable.

Hon Chairperson

The Government of the Gambia, for its part steadfast to the protection of “solidarity rights” such as the right to development and peace has adopted several policies and strategies aimed at alleviating poverty, the cumulative effect of its poverty reduction strategy, have strengthening the micro-economic framework through micro credit policies favoring women and youth. The Gambia is aware that the need to accentuate and reinforce human rights development underscores parallel development with rural and urban development. With the support of its development partners the Gambia have made significant progress in the areas of infrastructure development, roads, telecommunication, safe water, education, health care, rural electrification, through proportional physical infrastructure by geographical location.

Hon Chairperson

In order to make justice accessible to its citizen the Government of The Gambia in extending the democratization process has translated the policy of citizen’s access to justice by establishing the following Institutions.

Agency for legal Aid
Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat
Shelter for victims of trafficking in person
And the newly created Agency against Trafficking in person

In this order the Gambia has carried out several activities to improve the existing legal framework which include the revision of the entire Law Volumes of The Gambia which was all over due. To this end, many initiatives have been taken by the Government and its partners in development for instance, capacity building, training for members of the Press and media, Members of the Judiciary including Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers, Parliamentarians and Security Officers underwent various forms of training and sensitization seminars in pursuit of promoting grater constitutional democracy and good governance.

Furthermore some of us may recall that the government of The Gambia was the first African Union Member State to sign the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. It has also in 2010 passed into law the Womens Right Act (2010) the Act embodies comprehensive standards applicable to women it recognizes that women have a right not to be subjected to violence, injury, abuse, and harmful traditional Practices.

This Act provides exclusive guarantees for women’s rights with a combination of protection, empowerment, prohibition, punishment and violence against women and the rehabilitation of women victims and recognizes the right of women to peace and peaceful existence.

Hon Chairperson

In promoting and upholding religious freedom, the Gambia strives to uphold its unrivaled religious tolerance and the Government of The Gambia Respects this right. This peaceful co-existence of all religious denominations and faiths without any persecution by the Government is a clear testimony.

The Gambia as a developing nation is ready to learn from its difficulties and challenges in promoting human rights, but we are also unwavering in our desire and commitment to keep the peace and stability we are known to have enjoy.

The Gambia is ready and willing to learn and adopt best practices available to improve significantly on our human rights record and to best protect the human rights of people. We are and will continue to be committed to this cause.

Hon Chairperson

Before I conclude, let me reiterate again that as true promoters and protectors of human rights, we should also act responsibly in the way and manner we execute our functions/mandate and not to appear or be seen to make misleading and unsubstantiated claims of alleged human rights violations or statements founded on other ulterior motives. I am sure we do all acknowledge the fact that human rights does not operate in the abstract but within the legal system of the State

Finally, I wish to urge all participants to participate fully in the deliberations to follow because everyone’s contribution is indeed very important toward ensuring the effective promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. This forum of the Africa Commission is the right place to genuinely and frankly discuss issues of human and peoples’ rights that are of concern to all in our continent.

With these remarks Hon Chairperson, it now gives me the singular honor and privilege, to declare the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

OFFICIALLY OPEN.

I wish you all fruitful and successful deliberations. May God Bless you all.

 

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