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WAVE commemorate International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

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Women Association for Victim’s Empowerment (WAVE) in collaboration with esteemed partners hosted a stakeholder convergence focusing on accountability and justice for victims and survivors of torture to commemorate International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed every year on 26 June, the day on which the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect in 1987.

The convergence held at Bakadaji Wednesday brought together victims, policy makers, national and international human rights bodies, activists and students and aimed to foster dialogue, advocacy, collaboration and action to bring accountability and justice for victims, promote reconciliation and prevention strategies.

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It featured panel discussions exploring various aspects of Gambia’s transitional justice programs including justice, accountability and reparations, prevention strategies, victims experiences and international mechanisms such as universal jurisdiction to fight impunity and pursue justice.

Solicitor General and Legal Secretary Hussein Thomasi delivered a keynote address, emphasising the pivotal need for unity, collaboration and unwavering dedication to raise awareness, educate the public and inspire action to combat torture.

He assured of governments continuous stride to ensure accountability for all crimes including torture committed during the former regime citing the passing into law of the Special Accountability Mechanism and Special Prosecutor’s Office Act.

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SG Thomasi also disclosed that the Ecowas Special Tribunal for Gambia is expected to be established soon following the consideration of it’s draft statue by experts.

WAVE co-founder and senior technical adviser Priscilla Yagu Ciesay, said the day is an occasion to remember victims of torture and the need to stand in solidarity with them.

She hailed the passing of the anti torture law by the government as milestone but added that more work needs to be done to ensure the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture that provides protective mechanisms for victims of torture to access a number of protective mechanisms is ratified by the state.

WAVE she reiterated will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure victims get reparations and healing and make the “Never Again” slogan a reality.

The Executive director of the African Centre for Democracy and Humans Rights Studies, Hannah Forster, said the fact that many states do not accept they carry out torture it becomes a complex issue hence the need to undertake more advocacy, sensitization and capacity building to make people aware and involved. This according to her will help address the culture of silence and ensure victims get the redress they deserve.

The commemoration which forms part of WAVE 2nd edition of National Human Rights Festival witnessed two interactive panel sessions and question an answer sessions that provided victims to speak on their experiences, hear from policy makers and renew calls for justice and various forms of reparations including medical support.

Victim’s Abdoulie Bojang and Jukuna Suso from Jambur both called on the government to speed up reparations as most torture victims are in need for support.

Saffie Nyang from the Ministry of Justice Post TRRC Unit stated that the government understands and acknowledge the concerns of the victims and efforts have been and underway to address them.

The event also featured a presentation of position paper on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture to be submitted to the government. 

Elizabeth Sturley legal fellow with WAVE from the Colombia Law School emphasized the important need for Gambia to ratify the OPCAT is it will send a strong message about the Gambia’s commitment to proactivity regarding torture and enhance it’s international credibility and cooperation.

Ms Sturley described reparations as a cardinal principle enshrined in the 2005 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the right to a Remedy and Reparations. This guidelines according to her considers reparations as key part of accountability process as spelt out in the Gambia government White Paper on the TRRC report.

Zainab Lowe Baldeh, Outreach and External Liaison Officer for WAVE gave the closing remarks emphasising the need for closer collaboration and partnership to ensure the full implementation of the TRRC recommendations.

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