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Published On: Tue, Apr 30th, 2019

High level conference on safeguarding human rights in the Gambia.

Article 19 in partnership with the Institute for Human Rights and Development In Africa IHRDA with the financial support from the European union on Monday 29th April 2019 commenced a half day high level conference and training of the national assembly select committee members on human rights and constitutional matters at a local hotel in Senegambia.

Article 19 in partnership with the IHRDA and the financial support from the European union are implementing a two years project aimed at strengthening human rights standards in the Gambia. A key component of the project is to support the setting up and function of a parliamentary select committee on human rights and constitutional matters. In late 2018, the national assembly of the Gambia set up the said committee with inclusive membership from the different political parties represented in the national assembly.

The change of government in the Gambia is hope for strengthening laws, policies and institutional mechanisms to ensure that democracy, rule of law and human rights are upheld at all levels of government and by all institutions especially the oversight bodies such as the national assembly. It is also an opportunity for victims of human rights violations whose rights to an effective remedy and reparations has never been fulfilled by government.

It is upon this background that article 19 undertakes various activities within the Gambia and in collaboration with the national assembly and its partners to the the project, IHRDA , to accompany the the transition of democracy. The critical role of parliament will be enhanced if human rights especially international obligations are integrated and mainstream in national policies. By creating the parliamentary select committee on human rights and constitutional matters which is aimed among others at ensuring compliance with human rights standards in all business before parliament, the national assembly has set itself to play a pivotal role in championing human rights in the new Gambia.

Against this background and following the series of meetings and internal assessments, article 19 and the national assembly agreed to hold a conference for national assembly members and an in-depth capacity building training tailored for members of the parliamentary select committee on human rights and constitutional matters and their technical assistants on the role of parliament in safeguarding human rights in the Gambia. members of the newly formed committee will undergo a series of hands on training on human rights in the coming months to better support the government and its institutions to comply with the country’s human rights obligations and to promote best practices with a view to strengthen governance and a culture of human rights after two decades of repressions and negation of fundamental rights.

The overall objective of the conference and the capacity building workshop was to familiarize the parliamentarians with their role in protecting and promoting human rights in the Gambia and to provide them knowledge and tools to better monitor compliance including in the reforms processes and adoption of new laws.

At the end of the training, parliamentarians will understand the role and support the mandate of the parliamentary select committee on human rights and constitutional matters. Members would also be equipped to perform their role in influencing all business of parliament to be human rights compliant.

In her welcoming address , the regional director of article 19 West Africa Fatou Jagne Senghore said that ARTICLE 19 was established in 2017 and formal relations with the National Assembly of The Gambia and subsequently signed an MoU in 2018 to implant the EU funded project aimed at strengthening human rights in The Gambia.

She said The role of the executive and the legislature is therefore to compliment each other: the executive must govern, while the legislature asserts its key role as representative of the people by acting as an overseer of the executive. Thus, the use of the committee system to scrutinise and investigate whether the executive or its authorised agencies have acted properly in the implementation of public policies and programmes is crucial.

ARTICLE 19 acknowledges the consistence stance of the European Union in support of human rights in the country during the difficult and dark days. “We would also like to thank our implementing partner IHRDA for its support and partnership”.

ARTICLE 19 she noted to officially congratulate the National Assembly on its success in establishment of a select committee on Human Rights and constitutional matters and further anticipate that the following training for its members after this conference  will enable them to be more familiar with their mandate that among others play a central role in ensuring  human rights compliant legislation are enacted and acceleration of reforms , that will strengthen human rights in the Gambia particularly the media laws and freedom of information.

Mrs. Amie Njie representative of the executive director IHRDA said last year IHRDA and the west Africa office for the united nations office of the high commission for human rights began engagement with the national assembly on its role in the promotion of human rights in the Gambia especially within the context of  reforms in the new Gambia. Since then, she said IHRDA and partners have been involved in a series of consultations with the national assembly to effectively put in place the human rights committee.

She commended the national assembly and its sister organizations for the recent developments in the Gambia’s international human rights commitments. She reiterate their availability to continue supporting the national assembly together with relevant institutions and actors in their commitment to providing the human rights situations in the Gambia.

HE Attila Lajos EU ambassador to the Gambia said they are committed to Support the newly established and first ever Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional matters to better assist government in implementation of its human rights obligations.

He said the critical role of Parliament will be enhanced if human rights especially international obligations are integrated and mainstream in national policies.

In her opening address, the speaker f the national assembly Mariam Jack Denton said the convergence on the role of the national assembly in safeguarding human rights in the Gambia is significant for the fact that we are all aware that as an organ of the state, the national assembly has equal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights to which the state has bound itself by international treaties and constitutions .

The national assembly she noted has a  unique role of the state , with unique responsibility for the country’s legal framework making it the best placed institution of the state ,to realize human rights in the sense of making the necessary adjustments to the legal framework to ensure that human rights are adequately protected and fulfilled.

She called on attending members to devote maximum concentration and participation in the deliberations so that the outcome of the convergence can become a tool to enhance national assembly members capacity on human rights and constitutional matters.

Awa B Bah

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