The Gambia’s Parliament has passed a bill establishing an independent National Human Right Commission that will ensure the protection of rights of people in the country.
The Gambia, home for Africa’s major human right protection mechanism, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, was ironically considered an affront to human rights in the past two decades.
“The establishment of the national human right commission is crucial to ensure compliance with all the human rights treaties to which the Gambia is a party,” said justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou.
“Gambia is the home to the continental human right enforcement body… As such it is imperative for the Gambia to follow the best practices in upholding the highest standards of human rights through the establishment of a specialized body to deal with human rights promotion and enforcement.”
The bill, which received the unanimous support from all lawmakers has been described by activists as “long overdue.”
The representative of Central Baddibou, Sulayman Saho, said the establishment of the commission is a necessity in any country that is serious about the protection of rights of her people.
The executive director of Tango, Madi Jobarteh and an outspoken Gambian political activist and blogger, Sidi Sanneh, said the independence of the institution must also be protected.
“The setting up the Commission alone is not enough. It must be a functioning institution that acts as deterrence and an arbiter to human rights abuses, should there be any, in a country that has suffered under the previous regime,” Sanneh said.
“To achieve this end, membership to the Commission must be courageous citizens who believe in human rights with high moral caliber who will speak truth to power.”
The commission, whose members will be appointed by the president, according to the act, will consist of a chairperson, vice chairperson and three other members and its chairperson should be a legal practitioner with no less than ten years experience.
The Commission shall be headed by an executive secretary who will be appointed in consultation with the public service commission for a five-year term.
The Act gives the president the powers to remove a member of the Commission from office on grounds of inability to perform functions, misconduct, incompetence, bankruptcy or affiliation to any political party.