By Sanna Camara
The Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), established in accordance with (the UN) Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007, has posed 171 recommendations for the government of The Gambia to consolidate its human righst situation in accordnce with its international obligations.
The review of The Gambia, held at the third meeting of the Human Righst Council on 28 October 2014, has witnessed the Gambia government indicatig that they will examine these recommendations and report back to the Human Rights Council at its March 2015 session. At its 10th meeting held on 31 October 2014, the Working Group adopted the report on the Gambia.
At a session held at its twentieth session from 27 October to 7 November 2014, the delegation of The Gambia headed by Basiru V.P. Mahoney, Attorney General and Minister of Justice submitted that the country had made great efforts in strengthening human rights from education and health, to rights of women, children and the disabled and to fundamental freedoms, while maintaining a balance with security to ensure a stable environment for socio-economic development.
Gambia’s efforts and achievements
Among a long list of its ‘achievements’, the government disclosed that it has established a National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons which had started its operations in December 2011. It added thaat NAATIP had engaged in a country wide sensitisation programme, enlightening the public on the dangers and legal consequences of human trafficking in The Gambia.
On fundamental freedoms, the delegation stated that the Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code, Police Act, among others, provided safeguards for persons under investigation and detention. It also noted that persons suspected of having committed offences may be detained for up to 72 hours and thereafter must be brought before a court.
Prison conditions, detentions…
According to the delegation, the Government has taken many measures to decongest prisons and to improve prison conditions as well as the social welfare of prisoners. It added that in 2013, special hearing dates had been organised for Mile 2 Prison remand wing inmates, that trials had been conducted expeditiously and that persons who had no sufficient evidence supporting their charges had been acquitted and discharged.
Regarding the conditions of detention, the delegation mentioned that the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with the Prison Services Department had made efforts in the renovation of the security wing and increase in size of cells and cells allocation. Practical steps to promote rehabilitation of prisoners through education and vocational training have also been taken. Furthermore, according to the delegation, a doctor visits the prisons on a daily basis to provide medical services to sick inmates and trained nurses are also present to attend to inmates.
Freedom of speech, expression…
On the freedom of speech, expression and assembly, the delegation stated that The Gambia was committed to create a conducive environment for the media to operate freely and to ensure a free flow of information as provided for in the Constitution.
Consequently, the Information and Communications Act 2009 was passed into law to provide for the re-structuring, development and regulation of the information and communications sectors. Underlying that the right to freedom of expression was not absolute, the delegation mentioned that the Criminal Code created the offences of criminal libel and sedition. It added that since 1994, there had been a steady increase in the number of radio stations and newspapers.
Recommendations for Gambia
Following its submissio, memeers of the review hd their chnce t making wide ranging recommendations, which accrding to the report, will be examined by The Gambia in order to provide responses in due time, but no later than the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.
Montenegro, Portugal, Angola, Rwanda, were among countries that urged The Gambia to “Ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at ensuring the abolition of the death penalt”.
Indonesia, Gabon, Portugal, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, Denmark, Togo, France, Uruguay, amg others urged The Gambia to “Ratify the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”.
Lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and transgender…
Netherlands, Sweden, Sweden, Australia, France, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Germany, are among countries that want the President of The Gambia to “repeal provisions in the Criminal Code which criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct, Immediately decriminalize homosexuality, amending legislation to promote and protect human rights for all individuals, regardless of race, ethnic origin, religion, personal beliefs and opinions, disability, age, gender, and sexual orientation in accordance with The Gambia’s obligations including as signatories to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights”.
A National Human Rights Institution
India, Tunisia, Niger, Gabon, Chile, Nicaragua, Portugal, Rwanda, Burkina Faso. Sudan, are aamng countries that want Gambia to “Accelerate the progress of consultations and ensure that the National Human Rights Institution functions in accordance with the Paris Principles”.
Presidential decisions on appointment of judges
Mexico wants The Gambia to “Take measure to ensure the independence of the Judiciary including by means of eradicating the system of presidential decisions on appointment of judges.”
investigation into violations
Sweden wants Gambia to “Ensure independent, effective and speedy investigation into violations of the right to freedom of expression committed by officials engaged in law enforcement duties, to hold these responsible to account; and provide redress to victims”.
Chief Manneh, Deyda Hydara
Netherlands wants Gambia to “Implement swiftly and without preconditions the verdict of the ECOWAS Court of 10 June 2014 on the need of a thorough investigation to the disappearances of journalists Manneh and Hydara. US wants Gambia to “Investigate the disappearance of Citizens Alhaji Ceesay and Ebrima Jobe.”
Freedom of expression
Sweden wants Gambia to “Cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies to improve the situation of freedom of expression and human rights generally in The Gambia.”
Tunisia wants Gambia to “Intensify efforts to ensure a favourable environment for the activities of journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors”, while Italy wants Gambia to “Promote and guarantee freedom of expression in compliance with international standards as recommended.”