Human rights, constitutional safeguards against impunity and access to justice within the context of the April 10/11 victims, survivors and their families
On behalf of the New Gambia Movement, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this symposium for the commemoration of April 10/11 massacres.
The New Gambia Movement, currently headed by Dr Baba G Jallow, is a civil society organisation conceived out of the urgent need to bring together well-meaning and like-minded Gambians and friends of The Gambia who aspire to pull their resources (technical and human) together for love of country and with a view to bringing about lasting attitudinal and meaningful democratic change in our country.
“The Movement was launched on January 2, 2017 and membership is growing from strength to strength; we have members in 27 countries around the World, with 175 members to date.
The Movement’s mission is to transform The Gambia into a politically enlightened and empowered Family Nation – a country where the citizens of the country will be treated as the parents of the nation; and the government as the children of the nation.
The Movement’s work shall ensure that we transform The Gambia into a Family Nation in which the citizens will be sufficiently politically enlightened and empowered to democratically exert control over their leaders, so that no leader is ever able to oppress, marginalize, and deny them their rights as human beings. Thus the objectives of the Movement are as follows:
1. To help transform The Gambia into a nation of enlightened and empowered citizens;
2. To help transform The Gambia into one big traditional Gambian Family Nation;
3. To bring about the Family Nation through the agency of the nation as school, the Nation School;
4. To collaborate with government and civil society organizations operating within the Family Nation in all areas of endeavour relevant to the attainment of our mission and vision;
5. To collaborate with institutions operating outside the Family Nation in all areas mutually beneficial to the strategic mission and vision of both;
6. To set up and maintain a charitable fund, e.g., an Emergency Response Fund which will be used to help less fortunate members of the Gambian Family Nation thereby empowering them become self-supporting and able to contribute significantly to nation building.
In order to achieve its objectives, the New Gambia Movement aspires to work in partnership with government, civic society organizations and institutions of further and higher education, and individuals who identify with our attitudes towards the kinds of transformative social changes necessary to recalibrate government’s relationship with the people and put a new and lasting relevance to the concept of public service.
The Movement aims to educate the citizens in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, politics, law, history, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and sustainable rural resource development (environment) – an institute of Gambian studies will be established. The Movement has a small charitable arm, which aspires to respond appropriately to some of the challenges faced by the less fortunate members of the Family Nation, so that such individuals can become self-supporting and contribute towards national development.
The Movement will ensure the sustenance of democratic values which will retain home-grown talents and help ignite in them the kind of positive thoughts and ideas that will spark creativity and innovation and drive lasting national development.”
Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that the April 10/11 victims must have believed in the same principles and values. Hence their stance against tyranny which is derived from the constitution of The Gambia as follows:
PROTECTION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOM
Fundamental 17 (1) The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in Rights and this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by all organs of Freedoms the Executive and its agencies, the Legislature and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in The Gambia, and shall be enforceable by the Courts in accordance with this Constitution.
Protection 18 (1) No person shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her right to life except in the execution of a sentence of death imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence for which the penalty is death under the Laws of The Gambia as they have effect in accordance with sub-section (2) and of which he or she has been lawfully convicted.
Protection 19 (1) Every person shall have the right to liberty and security. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.
Protection 21 No person shall be subject to torture, or inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment
Freedom 25 (1) Of speech
Every person shall have the right to- Conscience,
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and other media; Association and movement
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which
shall include academic freedom;
(c) freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice;
(d) freedom to assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms;
(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions;
(f) freedom to petition the Executive for redress of grievances and to resort to the Courts for the protection of his or her rights.
(2) Every person lawfully within The Gambia shall have right to move freely throughout The Gambia, to choose his or her own place of residence within The Gambia, and to leave The Gambia.
(3) Every citizen of The Gambia shall have the right to return to The Gambia.
(4) The freedoms referred to in subsections (1) and (2) shall be exercised subject to the law of The Gambia in so far as that law imposes reasonable restriction on the exercise of the rights and freedoms thereby conferred, which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of The Gambia, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court.
In light of the above, it is clear that the importance of access to justice is an essential instrument for the protection of human rights in the Gambia and it is only when an individual has access to courts that his fundamental rights can be enforced.
Unfortunately, access to justice and protection of human rights failed the April 10-11 victims due to certain obstacles, which include lack of democracy and respect for the rule of law which was the order of the day. This impunity was manifested through the denial of justice for the victims when those who killed the students were indemnified. For this not to happen again, constitutional reforms are needed to ensure that impunity is discouraged. Adequate legal mechanisms should be put in place to guarantee adequate and comprehensive reparations to all victims of human rights violations. In the case of the April 10-11 victims, reparation may be demanded to the State as the crimes were committed by public officials.
At a time when it was difficult for educated Gambians to challenge the authority of the Jammeh government, some Gambians, on the 10th and 11th of April, took it upon themselves as a moral obligation and sacred duty, to ensure that sanity prevailed in this country. Like Edward Francis Small, they refused to live by the culture of silence especially when they felt that silence was a lie. They strongly believed that the core values of democracy and freedom must be shared among all Gambians. They too declared to:
- Stand up for truth, freedom, justice and equity
- Be bound in duty to expose acts of injustice and oppression
- Deal with systems, policies and principles, not individuals or personalities
Like E.F. Small, they lifted the veil of ignorance and the yoke of dictatorship in the soul and spirit of the Gambian child. They fought for Truth, Justice and Democracy, Freedom and ordered Liberty. May the sons and daughters of The Gambia emulate your patriotic spirit for the emergence of a liberated and democratic Gambia. You paid the ultimate price for our freedom; we shall never forget you. Some of us are ashamed to have let you down for so long. We are sorry.
We the NGM, under the Research and Documentation pillar, will do everything in our powers to investigate and document what happened on that day on April 10 2000. The world will not forget you. We shall vigorously add our voice to those who seek to end the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against innocent citizens. We will never again allow anyone to oppress and kill us with total impunity. We shall never allow anyone to break our Family Nation again; we shall rise, fight and set ourselves free.
Rest in perfect peace, Heroes of The Gambia.
Donation (D3000) on behalf of NGM to the April 10/11 Foundation headed by Mr. Sheriff Mohammed Kijera