By Omar Bah
To ensure accessibility for cross sections of people and avoid duplications, the National Human Rights Commission, Office of The Ombudsman and the National Agency for Legal Aid, yesterday signed a cooperation agreement at NHRC office in Kotu.
NHRC Chairperson Emmanuel Joof, Ombudsman Bakary Sanyang and NALA executive director Ahmed Kemo Ceesay signed the MoU on behalf of respective parties.
The memorandum aims to strengthen partnership and collaborative work to ensure accessibility of justice to all Gambians irrespective of political, tribe and religious background.
Under this MoU, the three organisations will jointly work to ensure increased access and ensure they avoid duplication of work.
Speaking shortly before the official signing ceremony, the NHRC chairperson Joof said the MoU is very important to the human rights commission because the three institutions have a lot in common.
“Our work and mandates are inescapably linked and we have to work together despite the fact that we all have independent mandates,” he said.
He said section 12 of the NHRC Act clearly states that “in promoting awareness on and respect for human rights, we need to do that through effective cooperation with non-governmental organization local and other public entities interested in the field of human rights.”
“So we are tasked by our establishment to make sure that we collaborate with all these institutions and this MoU is all about that and in doing so, we are also tasked to liaise and cooperate with other international human rights organisations to advance the promotion of human rights. This is because we all have the same objective of improving access to justice,” he said.
He however said: “It is fruitless for the country to have all these institutions – if people cannot access justice. Our institutions are really guidance of the rule of law and these mandates have been given us so that we made justice accessible to everyone”.
Chairperson Joof said the MoU will also cement the three institutions’ partnership on the areas of information sharing and avoid duplication of their work.
The Ombudsman, Bakary Sanyang assured the NHRC of his office’s total commitment to the principles of the MoU.
“I am convinced that with this MoU, we will be a better and stronger fighting force. We must therefore commit ourselves to strengthening this partnership and see this document as a living document that will be periodically reviewed for a stronger and sustained partnership,” he said.
While thanking the NHRC for coming up with the initiative, Sanyang assured his office’s total commitment to its principle.
The National Agency for Legal Aid [NALA] executive director, Ahmed Kemo Ceesay, said the MoU will significantly improve the efficiency of the institutions.
He said NALA is tasked to provide legal advice as well as legal representation in criminal matters in court, police stations and prisons.