Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Campaign to strip Gambia of ‘human rights title’ intensifies

52nd Ordinary Session: 9th - 22nd October 2012. Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire/PHOTO:ACHPR
Human rights NGOs gathering in the Cote d’Ivoire city of Yamoussoukro, to participate in the 25th anniversary and 52nd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), have intensified calls for Gambia to be stripped of its title: “Human Rights Capital of Africa”. 

The Gambia is regarded as such because it hosts the ACHPR, however, in an October 6, 2012 resolution on Gambia, rights defenders said: “The Gambia Government is best known for its contempt of the principles of human rights; and its continued acts of rights abuse calls for it to be stripped of the privilege of hosting a Pan African Organ.”

The ACHPR has a mandate to promote, protect and advance the fundamental principles of rule of law and democracy utilising a human rights based approach.

“We hereby call upon the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, for the third time in as many years, to use its influence, exercise its mandate and prevail upon the African Union leadership to relocate the Human Rights Commission to another AU member state that has a demonstrable track record of respecting human rights, rule of law and good governance,” they agreed.

In their view, the “Government of the Gambia does not possess the moral authority in principle and practice, to continue to be bestowed with the privilege of hosting a human rights commission, since it has demonstrated time and again that the protection of and respect for human rights is not a priority.”

Rights defenders said they are alarmed by “the rapid deterioration of rule of law, further erosion of human rights, continued disappearances and a deteriorating press freedom” in The Gambia.

The Gambia government hosts the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and is bound by an agreement it signed with the African Union.

The NGOs exhort the Government of the Gambia to honour its obligations towards supporting the mandate of the Commission and upholding the fundamental principles of the continental charter on human rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

The Charter, also referred to as the “Banjul Charter”, was drafted by African legal experts; prominent among them is Gambia’s Justice Hassan Jallow of the Arusha-based international criminal tribunal.   

The NGOs Forum, as it is popularly called, over the years it has been hosted by in Gambia by the Banjul-Based Hannah Foster led African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) usually precedes the Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission. 
This year’s session is the first to be hosted outside Gambia in as many years. In two of the previous sessions, rights defenders led by a Tunisian delegation vigorously campaigned to move the sessions elsewhere citing rights violations in Gambia as a major reason. 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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