The Gambia: Updates on the transitional justice measures

Human Rights Committee's 123rd session - July 2018

The families of victims of enforced disappearance demand information on ongoing investigations. Photo credit: justiceinfo.net

The Human Rights Committee conducted the second periodic review of The Gambia, in the absence of a State report. The Gambia had however provided the Committee with detailed replies to the List of Issues.

 The Gambia expressed a renewed commitment to its international human rights obligations. The delegation stated that they have passed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED) and Convention Against Torture (CAT) at the Parliament and were awaiting signature from the President to send the instrument of accession to the UN.

The webcast is available here : part 1 & part 2

"[The Gambia] is a country in transition from an extended period of autocratic rule[…]human rights is at the centre of the new government’s governance."

- Head of the Gambian delegation, Mr. Cherno Marenah

Transitional Justice

The Committee commended the new government on the cancellation of the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, release of political prisoners and the various Constitutional changes underway. In this regard, the Committee sought information on the impact that the Covenant would have in the envisaged Bill of Rights.

The Committee also enquired about the plans relating to mass grave and burial sites. The delegation informed the Committee of the lack of forensic capacity in The Gambia which has led to the exhumations being put on hold. The delegation asserted that an increase in capacity was necessary to ensure the integrity of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). The Committee was also told that while the law provided that the TRRC may recommend amnesty in some cases, certain categories of crimes, such as crimes against humanity as understood under the Rome Statute, have been excluded.

With respect to the functioning of the TRRC, the delegation informed the Committee that the TRRC recommends prosecution of those found culpable and the courts preside over the cases. Where the Court of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) has ordered compensation to victims, the government has undertaken to pay the reparations to the best of its capabilities in light of the current financial crisis. The delegation also informed the Committee that the prosecution in the case of Solo Sanding had already commenced.

In the security sector, the end of the 23-year-old dictatorship has resulted in a shift of law enforcement from the military to the police. The reform envisaged includes review of the police training school curriculum and adopting a zero tolerance policy against torture and arbitrary detention.

National Human Rights Institution (NHRC)

A NHRC was established in December 2017 and the vetting and interviews of candidates for the Commissioners are underway. The NHRC would have suo motu right to conduct investigations into human rights violations, and the budget would be allocated from the National Treasury without ministerial interference.

Prison Conditions

The delegation acknowledged the poor condition of prisons in The Gambia and stated that the prisons had been made open to international visitors. The Prison Visiting Committee has been set up without any member of the ministry and is led by the now Ambassador to Malaysia. The Report of this Committee is due by the end of July 2018 and will be taken into account in the review of the prison Act.

Concluding observations on The Gambia in the absence of a report

Within two years, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee's Concluding Observations:

Role of the Covenant in domestic legal order

  • Ensure that the rights enshrined in the Covenant are fully incorporated into the bill of rights of the new Constitution and other relevant domestic legislation and take all measures necessary to ensure that all laws, including customary and Sharia laws, are articulated, interpreted and applied in full compliance with the Covenant
  • Intensify its efforts to train all judicial and legal professionals, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, public officials and the public on the rights enshrined in the Covenant and its optional protocols and their application

Transitional justice

  • Expedite the appointment of the members of the Commission and setting up of its secretariat and ensure the effective and independent functioning of the Commission
  • Ensure that all allegations of human rights violations and abuses are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences
  • Repeal all provisions that allow blanket impunity, including the Indemnity Act of 2001; and ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable without exception, including the highest official
  • Ensure that amnesties are prohibited for serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law
  • Ensure that all victims are provided with effective remedies, including appropriate compensation, restitution and rehabilitation, taking into account the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law
  • Secure all relevant documents and evidence of all relevant State organs, including the archives of the former National Intelligence Agency and other on-site evidence
  • Put in place vetting procedures in the army and the law enforcement and intelligence sectors and remove all those who have been involved in serious human rights violations from their positions

Torture, ill treatment, conditions of prison

  • Ensure that all allegations of torture and ill treatment are investigated promptly, impartially and thoroughly; that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished; and that victims are provided with effective remedies
  • Review the Criminal Code to include torture as a criminal offence; and conclude the ratification process of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT)
  • Prevent torture and ill-treatment through strengthening existing monitoring bodies or establishing an independent mechanism to monitor the conditions of prison; providing mandatory training for relevant law enforcement officers as well as judges, prosecutors and other legal professionals regarding prevention of torture
  • Revise the Prisons Act in compliance with international standards and improve the facilities and conditions of prison, including food, sanitation and medical care
  • Ensure prompt, independent and thorough investigations into the circumstances surrounding deaths in custody, bringing responsible persons to justice, where appropriate, and providing victims’ families with remedies; and take all measures necessary to prevent the recurrence of such death

the Gambia's next periodic report is due by 27 July 2022.

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