Your Excellency Madam Moderator, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Your Excellency Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN
Fellow Panelists, Distinguished Participants, It gives me great pleasure to join this platform as a panelist on the theme “Participation, Human Rights and the Governance Challenge Ahead” and to share with you some aspects of our Governance challenges especially as a country emerging from over two decades of dictatorship with a legacy of large scale human rights abuses and violations.
Massive violations of human rights and abuses were prevalent in The Gambia and this was manifested in the forms of killings, enforced disappearance, torture, illegal arrests and detentions, sexual and gender based violence as well as complete breakdown and failure of our institutions. These violations have been well documented by both local and international observers.
We embarked on a transitional justice programme designed to ensure accountability for the wrongs that were committed, combat impunity, serve justice, provide reparations, healing and reconciliation, carry out institutional reforms with the overriding objective that never again will such atrocities be committed and manifested in our beloved country. We realized we had to restore the lost voice of victims’ and ensure a broad based participation of the citizenry in all aspects of nation building so that no one is left behind. The government of The Gambia is acutely aware of the important role its citizenry contributes to a transparent and participatory system of governance.
The struggle for participation in governance as a human right is a reality that we Gambians have lived and learned and we are happy to share the experience gained over the years. Our role now, as a government, is to consolidate the gains we have acquired in the recent years through the support of our multilateral partners in the pursuit of a successful transition from a dictatorship to a meaningful and participatory democracy that is characterized by transparency, respect for the rule of law and development. To contextualize my contribution, allow me to draw examples from the all-inclusive national transitional justice programme of The Gambia.
Madam Moderator, Excellencies 1st To establish a transitional justice process, the government thought it necessary to first embark on a countrywide consultation with the view to gaining the buy-in or consent of the population to support a process that is nationally-led and nationally-owned; 2nd After a countrywide consultative process, the Government deemed it wise to set up the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which represented the views of the majority concerning truth seeking, reconciling communities and providing reparations. The unique size and composition of the TRRC were outcomes from the national consultations.
3rd A successful transitional justice process must consider the necessity of change in the rule of law framework and governance architecture by giving due consideration to concerns raised by the population, civil society groups including the media. A more participatory and all-inclusive Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), unprecedented in the history of The Gambia was, therefore, set up to review the current constitution of The Gambia. The Commission did not limit its engagement within the country, but also reached out to the Diaspora as part of its ongoing consultations with all stakeholders. Notwithstanding the elaborate and extensive consultations throughout all the districts in The Gambia, the final draft was rejected by members of the National Assembly where members expressed disagreement with some provisions. Not all is lost as I fervently believe that all concerned parties could be brought to the table for us to chart the way forward.
4th To further strengthen the gains in human rights protection, The Gambia has, for the first time established a National Human Rights Commission that is now functional, and the Government is now meeting its reporting obligations under various human rights instruments and treaties; and
5th the population must be reassured of a future in which they have a stake by unveiling a well and all-inclusive development plan, capable of predicting a development trajectory that is ambitious enough to restore hope.
Madam Moderator, Excellencies
Multilateralism is more relevant today than ever before. As evidenced by our reality, the adverse effect of this invisible enemy did not only impair the annual interaction we are accustomed to in New York for the strengthening of multilateralism on the margins of the General Assembly, but has the potential to increase (if one is not careful and vigilant) domestic violence in our homes as well as in our communities. To mitigate domestic violence the Government of The Gambia engaged in an all-inclusive nationwide sensitization programs with enforcement of stringent measures, which have so far kept human rights abuses to a bare minimum. In addition, our health facilities are stretched daily beyond capacity and our frontline health workers who are underpaid and ill-equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPEs) are overwhelmed.
Madam Moderator, Excellencies,
Within the context of multilateralism, we must recognize that violations of human rights anywhere should be of serious concern to us everywhere. The Gambia filed a case against Myanmar on the 11th November, 2019 before the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority. Both Myanmar and The Gambia are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention which compels all members to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. As at December, 2019, 152 States have ratified or acceded to this important treaty. The Gambia acknowledges the support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for bringing this case and the governments of Netherlands and Canada for their declaration of support. It is our hope and expectation that the international community will rise and galvanize support to ensure lasting justice for the Rohingya.
I thank you Madam Moderator, your excellencies and I look forward to further interactions.