By Momodou Jarju
Prime in the mandate outcome of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is to ensure they contribute to the “Never Again” maxim of the TRRC, according to the new Chairman of the aforesaid Commission.
Mr Emmanuel Daniel Joof further said that the Commission would be an important institution that can and will contribute to strengthening of the rule of law and guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of Gambians.
He said this can be accomplished through the directive of the Commission which “has the mandate to raise the awareness of human rights, investigate human rights abuses and make recommendations, provide training and technical advisory services to our law enforcement agencies, spearhead law reform and review of domestic laws that are incompatible with human rights provisions, and other treaty provisions we have ratified and much more.”
Chairperson Joof urged every Gambian to learn lessons from their recent history, and for everyone to fully appreciate the significance of a NHRC, and to respect human rights in general.
“I also hasten to add that although the state has the paramount duty to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of the people, it is also our duty and obligation that we should conform to the laws of the land, be responsible citizens and not only hold our elected officials to account, but ourselves. We certainly cannot build a society on lawlessness and where impunity reigns. It is a two-way affair,” he said.
He said the NHRC will work closely with law institutions, law enforcement agencies, NGOs, CBOs, the UN, AU and other development partners, to build a better Gambia were respect for the rule of law and human rights will be the model. He hope that Government and partners will back and collaborate with NHRC.
“We hope that there will be the political will to accord the Commission the scope, resources and respect necessary, to do its work independently and effectively,” he said.
He said the country was regarded by many as a country of peace in Africa, were the rule of law and respect for human rights prevailed in 1970s and 1980s, despite its small size and economic challenges.
“Unfortunately, 22 years of repressive rule relegated the Gambia to a pariah state where human rights and the rule of law were sent to the doldrums, and the fundamental rights and freedoms of its people which are incidentally enshrined in our own 1997 Constitution at Chapter 4, were flouted by the executive with impunity.
“Strangely enough, the cynicism directed at those who spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, sometimes came from some unexpected quarters and by that, I mean from our so called ‘elite and professional class’ and even some lawyers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Joof cleared out that NHRC is not mandated to investigate and or examine the past human rights abuses or records of the former Government; that the Act establishing the NHRC is very clear on that, and that this is left to the TRRC.
The long-awaited Commission is a permanent body instituted to promote and protect human rights, recommend appropriate remedial action to Government, and seek appropriate redress on behalf of victims.
Public awareness creation and education programs to promote a culture of human rights in the country and assist Government formulate policies to guarantee human rights, are among NHRC’s mandate.