By Baba Sillah
The Ministry of Justice in collaboration with development partners yesterday commenced a three-day national stakeholders’ conference on justice and human rights under the theme “addressing the past for a better Gambia” After 22 years of virtual dictatorship under the leadership of the former President Yahya Jammeh.
Declaring the conference open at Kairaba Beach Hotel, the Chief Justice of The Gambia, Hassan B Jallow highlighted the challenges ahead of the transition to a state of democracy based on respect for the rule of law, human rights and good governance which he said is by no means an easy task as it is full of challenges. ” But it is a task which can be, and must be accomplished,” he said.
According to the Chief Justice, a systematic review of the constitutional framework and the content of other laws-particularly the media and criminal law needs to be carried out to provide for a stronger foundation for democratic government.
He postulated that the judicature needs strengthening to ensure its independence, impartiality and efficiency to provide effective and reasonable speedy justice to litigants.
He noted that existing alternative institutions for dealing with the abuse of authority in public administration such as Ombudsman need strengthening, while there is a need too for the establishment of new institutions such as a National Human Rights Commission which can provide speedier and less expensive access to justice.
“Without effective justice for victims of abuse and violations we cannot expect peace in the long-term, we need to promote genuine political pluralism in our community with proactive means which discourage de facto monopoly of state power by any particular group; reform o the public service to secure its political neutrality and efficiency to help enhance its capacity to deliver effective service to government and to the population,” he said.
Justice Jallow said there is a need to consider the establishment of a permanent non-political mechanism that will be charged with the task of fostering continuous dialogue within our community and with recommending measures for enhancing national unity and solidarity. ”The disadvantaged in our community including children, youth and women should not be left further behind in the march for progress,” said Chief Justice Jallow.
For her part, the UNDP country representative Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje said the UN system in The Gambia is pleased to be associated with the Gambia National Stakeholders Conference on Justice and Human Rights in partnership with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice. She added that this is part of the ongoing efforts of the UN in The Gambia to support the government in delivering effective development results.
Other speakers included the human rights representative in The Gambia who also made similar sentiment.