Wednesday, October 17, 2012

COUNTRY RESOLUTION


Gambian president Yahya Jammeh: PHOTO/AFP


Gambia: Governance, Democracy And Respect For The Rule Of Law


Cognizant that the Civil Society Forum of African NGOs met in Yamoussoukro to commemorate 25 years of the institution of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as a Pan African Organ mandated to spearhead and safe guard the fundamental rights of the African citizenry;

Considering the thematic pillars that the CSO Forum advanced under the auspices of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies- popular participation and democracy; human rights and rule of law; penal system conditions; combating impunity;

Asserting the African (Banjul) Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights (adopted 27 June 1981), which reached its third decade in 2011, and reflecting on the prescribed articles: article 3- equality before the law and protection by the law; article 4- respect for human life; article 6- right to liberty and protection from arbitrary arrest; article 7- right to fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty; article 9: right to receive information and express and disseminate such information within the law; article 10- freedom of association; article 11- freedom of assembly; article 12- freedom of movement; article 25 duty to promote human rights; article 26- duty to guarantee independence of courts;

Aware of the fact that the Gambia government hosts the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and is bound by an agreement it signed with the African Union;

Recalling such obligations that the Government of the Gambia has towards supporting the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and upholding the fundamental principles of the continental charter on human rights, also referred to as the ‘Banjul Charter’;

Further recalling the multiple demands made by the ACHPR, ECOWAS, the African Union, United Nations Human Rights Council and civil society and rights groups for the Gambia to honor its commitments to the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international treaties dealing with rights issues;

Alarmed by the rapid deterioration of rule of law, further erosion of human rights, continued disappearances and statutory murder as well as wanton abuse of executive power in The Gambia as evidenced by recent events, which indicates that the country is presided over by an undemocratic regime, where impunity and terror are firmly entrenched;

Fully cognisant of that fact that 22 August 2012 is a day that shall live in infamy, when nine death row inmates, including foreign nationals, were executed by firing squad upon pronouncement by the President of the Republic of The Gambia; without due process or procedure, an act that is nothing short of statutory murder;

Condemn the acts of the execution and continued threats by the Government of the Gambia to resort to more executions to serve as a deterrent to criminal behaviour;
Expressing deepest sympathies to the families of the inmates who were unlawfully executed on the night of 22 August 2012;

Aware that the government of The Gambia declared a return to the 25 year moratorium on the death penalty in September 2012;

Fully aware that there are still 38 inmates on death row who may succumb to the same fate as their nine counterparts;

Call to the attention of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that the Gambia government is not a reliable partner, based on its track record of 18 years; it has breached its obligations towards its citizens, desecrated the 1997 Constitution [of The Gambia] and continues to break with regional and continental norms, standards and treaties, which it signs but does not respect nor implement;

Cognisant of the continued infractions on the fundamental rights of the Gambian citizenry by the Gambia government specifically in the following instances- the assassination of Deyda Hydara and the extra-judicial killings of 48 innocent migrants, [mostly Ghanaians] in 2005;
disappearances of Ebrima (Chief) Manneh and Daba Marena and five other security officials in 2006; the abduction, stigmatisation and drugging of mostly elderly women accused of being ‘witches’ in 2007; and the continuous harassment and jailing of journalists and illegal closure of private media houses deemed critical of the Gambia Government; and the systematic dismantling of institutions of governance- the legislature and judiciary particularly;

Concerned by the continued threats meted out to human rights defenders- especially given utterances made by President Jammeh, that he cannot guarantee the safety of human rights defenders working in The Gambia;

Further Concerned that the rule of law is not respected by the Government of The Gambia;

Shocked at the contempt shown by The Gambia government to the ECOWAS Court, by the refusal to honour the court ruling to produce Chief Ebrima Manneh and compensate his family, as well as compensate Musa Saidykhan for torture meted out to him whilst under the custody of state security agents;

Alarmed by the continued acts of police brutality, and the inhumane prison conditions in Mile II, a penitentiary that registers at least one death per month, due to poor hygiene conditions and overcrowding, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, lack of access to adequate healthcare, poor nutrition, torture and rape;

Appraised of the fact that evidence further shows that The Government of The Gambia has breached every single principle that the African Human Rights Charter espouses; and that the Gambia government has been requested, on numerous occasions, to respect its obligations to the Human Rights Charter, especially given the fact that it is hosting the institution;

Disturbed by the evidence which points to the government of the Gambia’s continued position to ignore the calls for reforms by its peers, civil society and the international community; and its determination to continue to violate the rights of its own citizens through the rule of terror, and instilling fear within the general public;

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; 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.

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 which has a mandate to promote, protect and advance the fundamental principles of rule of law and democracy utilising a human rights based approach;
Done in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, on the 25th anniversary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 6 October 2012

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