By Ousainou Sawaneh (PrinCE OjeE)
The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABAROLI Gambia) in partnership with the Gambian judiciary has on Tuesday 15th March, 2022 convened a two-day Judicial Colloquium best practices and comparative experiences forum on International Criminal Law.
The colloquium was held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre on March 15th to 16th, 2022.
American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative is currently supporting the Judiciary of The Gambia in enhancing the judiciary’s knowledge on the specialized international legal instruments, their application and international jurisprudence and exposure to best practices to better understand and apply these instruments to our national context and to cases that come before them in the context of TRRC recommendations.
Consequently, ABAROLI in partnership with the Gambian judiciary is organized the two-day best practices and comparative experiences forum for the Gambian judiciary on select aspects of international criminal law and international human rights law that will be particularly relevant in this post-TRRC period.
As The Gambia is going through a transitional justice process following 22 years of dictatorship after former President Yahya Jammeh was forced to give up power to Adama Barrow upon losing the December 2016 presidential election. At the top of the transition agenda, was the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) amongst other established institutions.
Giving the opening statement, Chief Justice of the Gambia, Hassan B. Jallow said that the Gambian Judiciary has played a crucial part in upholding the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution and other regional/international mechanisms which the Gambia is a party.
He reiterated that the clear mandate emanating from the TRRC report has heightened public expectations on the delivery of justice from the judicial arm of government, noting that the Judiciary is strongly committed to ensuring there is access to justice for everyone and to simplify the legal procedures involved for the ordinary Gambian.
‘‘However, ensuring justice for almost 2 million people in the context of transitional justice will be a challenging task, primarily because the Gambian judiciary has never had to deal with these range of systematic allegations of crimes over an extended period’’ he said.
Justice Jallow added that the colloquium will not only provide a platform for interaction between members of the bench and international and regional experts but also between members of the bench themselves as it aims to be a peer-to-peer exchange forum.
‘‘The work begins now. This colloquium, amongst other interventions will owe its relevance, significance and contribution not just to the outcome document it will produce but also the development of a plan to realise all its objectives with serious time frames in line with the post TRRC ideals’’ he said
Chief Justice said as the judicial arm of government, they commit to take concrete measures to ensure that the rule of law is observed, human and people’s rights are protected and upheld, there is accountability and good governance in entrenched.
‘‘Reconciliation continues to be the national goal and the national objective. Reconciliation must however rest on the very solid pillars of truth telling, of forgiveness and of accountability. Justice for victims of violations remains a necessary important route for peace and reconciliation’’ he said.
Speaking at the event, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow commended the Gambian Judiciary for creating the platform to enhance the capacity of the Gambia Judiciary on International Criminal Law.
He reiterated that the theme of the colloquium on best practices and comparative experience on international justice is very relevant and instructive while saying that the role of the judiciary in post TRRC Gambia is critical and it’s important in the process cannot be over emphasis.
Minister of Justice added that the government of the Gambia embarked on a transitional justice process in 2017 following the 22 year authoritarian rule of former president adding that following the enactment of the TRRC, the President has Sworn-in eleven commissioners of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.
“The main objective of the TRRC are to create an impartial historic record of violations and abuses of human rights from July, 1994 to January, 2017 in other to promote healing and reconciliation and to respond to the needs of the victims and to address impunity and to prevent reputation of the violations of abuses by making recommendations for the appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms” he said
He disclose that after the submission of the TRRC report, the Gambia government is actively working on producing a white paper that will contain government position on the implementation of the TRRC recommendation.
“I wish to assure you all the government is committed to ensuring that victims of human right violations during the period under review not only gets justice but adequately compensated for all manner of injuries cause to them by former regime” he said
On his part American Bar Association Chief of Party, Elysee Sindayigaya said the judicial colloquium is one of many ways to address the gaps as it aims to complement judicial role in the international criminal law.
He added that American Bar Association is currently implementing two projects in promoting rights and justice.
“We are pleased to support and be part of this important event. The American Bar Association since September 2021 continue to work with the government of the Gambia to support rule of law, justice and democratic principles” he said