|Gambia Justice Minister, Edward Gomez|
“One cannot continue to oppress people and set aside their rights. Human rights are inviolable and sacrosanct. They should always be upheld and defended by governments, their agents and judicial systems,” said Mr. Edward Gomez, Gambia’s Minister of Justice.
The justice-minister, who recently came under attack by press freedom watchdogs for comments he made over the whereabouts of missing journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, was addressing participants on Wednesday at the opening session of the Forum on the Participation of Non-Governmental Organisations in the 50th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which was held from 19th to 21st October, 2011 in Banjul, The Gambia.
The forum, held under the theme “30th Anniversary of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights” hear updates on regional human rights situations from the five African regions: Southern, West, North, East and Central. It also discusses the progress and challenges experienced during the 30 year existence of the Charter.
Other topics covered include the challenges of forced eviction and the violation of the right of slum dwellers, freedom of association over the past 30 years, freedom of expression and protection of journalists, sexual orientation and gender identity, death penalty in Africa, indegenous populations and communities in Africa, and prisons and conditions of detention in Africa.
The Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Mrs Rene Alapina Gansou recalled the many challenges still facing implementation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, despite the progress made in the thirty years since its adoption.
She specifically referred to the continued existence of the death penalty in many African Union Member States and challenged the civil society organisations to work together with the ACHPR to fully and effectively implement the Charter.
The ACHPR is an organ of the African Union, charged with ensuring the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights throughout Africa. In the organisation of the NGO forum, it is working closely with the Banjul-bases African Center for Democracy and Human Rights and Studies (ACDHRS), which was represented at the forum by its Chairperson Mr Andrew Chigovera, a former Commissioner of the ACHPR. The African Union Commission was represented by the Department of Political Affairs.
Civil society groups, journalists and individuals from Africa and internationally attended the meeting.
On Thursday 20th October 2011, the Consultation on the implementation and monitoring of the Human Rights Strategy for Africa (HRSA) also opened in Banjul.
Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice newspaper
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