ACHPR begins 58th Ordinary Session in the “Islamic Republic of The Gambia”

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By Yusef Taylor @FlexDan_YT on Twitter

The 58th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has commenced with the traditional Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) Forum and the 32nd African Human Rights Book Fair. The NGOs forum which took place at the Paradise Suites Hotel on April 3rd is scheduled to conclude on April 5th. This event attracts human rights organisations across the continent to discuss pressing human rights issues, with key focus on torture, abuse of power by leaders, detention without trial, violence against women and many other human rights violations across the African Continent. Below is the schedule for the 58th Ordinary Session currently underway in April 2016.

  • 3rd – 5th April – NGOs Forum and Book Fair
  • 6th – 13th April – Submission of State Periodic Reports and Reviews
  • 20th April – Closing of the Commission
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Delegates at the NGO Forum

The Executive Director of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHR), Mrs Hannah Forster begun her introductory remark by noting that “the forum is aimed to bring together NGOs across the continent to discuss human rights and violence in Africa and to progress recommendations to be tabled before the Commission for consideration.” In welcoming delegates to the country, she noted that the forum has been in existence for the past 25 years and addressed The Gambia as an Islamic State. She also expressed hope on the development of more effective resolutions for the improvement of Human rights in the host country (The Gambia).

The draft programme pictured below also refers to The Gambia as an Islamic Republic although no referendum has yet been passed to reverse The Gambia’s secular status. Our reporter expressed his surprise to see the African Center for Human Rights and Democracy refer to the Gambia as an Islamic State. However a West African journalist and political analyst noted that “in diplomatic traditions and protocols, embassies, diplomatic representations and their offices are accredited to the head of state who decides how they should be addressed. It’s a bit tricky but the way they call the country does not dictate their agenda.”

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Day One Programme

Africa’s special rapporteur on Refugees and Internally displaced persons, Mrs. Sahli Fadel Maya highlighted some human rights achievements registered across the continent in 2015. To that effect she cited “Free and Fair” elections in some African countries and the advocacy campaigns completed by Human Rights Organisations. She mentioned that “there is still an urgent need for much needed improvement to curtail Human Rights violations across the Continent” and cited political insecurity, freedom of expression, illegal migration, torture, stigmatization, detentions and undemocratic constitutional changes by Leaders to suit their own interests. To conclude she made reference to the strong relationship between the culture of impunity and human rights violations in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of The Gambian Government Mrs Mama Fatima Singhateh, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said that “the gathering is a clear manifestation of the delegate’s dedication and commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights in our dear continent.” In her view “The African Commission is a partner and their initiative is worth commending”. She noted that that the promotion and protection of Human rights should be the responsibility of each and every citizen. According to the Justice Minister “The Gambia Government has taken numerous steps to fulfill its obligations. I wish to report that plans are far advanced for The Gambia to be counted among African countries that have established a National Human Rights Commission in accordance to Paris principles.” To conclude she made reference to the study tour of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, highlighting that The Gambia has learned a lot from the fact finding mission to Nigerian.

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Delegates at the Opening of the 58th Commission

To date The Gambia has 11 overdue periodic state reports and is currently in the red zone. According to the ACHPR, signatories to the Charter are required to submit periodic reports every two years after the initial report. However The Gambia last submitted a periodic report covering 1986 to 1994. The host country for the ACHPR is now over 12 years overdue in submitting its periodic human rights report. Among countries which have submitted reports to the Commission, The Gambia is second only to Cape Verde which has 12 overdue reports. Following behind The Gambia is Guinea with nine overdue reports. African countries continually fail to submit Periodic Reports with no consequences.

  • In the Green Category only 9 state have submitted all their Reports (and presented or will present at next Ordinary Session)
  • In the Amber Category 16 states are late by one or two reports
  • In the Red Category 22 states are late by three or more reports
  • The Grey Category is for states that have not submitted any reports, of which there are 7
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