Ousman Sonko attended this year’s UPR

L. Access to information

  1. In the Gambia, every citizen has a right to access information from the State or any other organ or agency of the State with exception to information which is likely to be prejudicial to the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to the privacy of the person.

 

M. The rights of women

  1. In addition to enacting in 2010 the Women’s Act, the Government of The Gambia to demonstrate its commitment to women’s rights, formulated and continues to implement the National Gender and Women Advancement Policy 2010-2020.

  2. Several sensitization campaigns are being conducted at both national, local and grass root levels on the provisions of the Women’s Act. In addition, several other measures are being taken to promote women’s and children rights.

  3. The Domestic Violence Bill and the Sexual Offences Acts passed by the National Assembly in December 2013 are of significance in addressing violence against women and girls.

 

N. Female Genital Mutilation/female circumcision

  1. A National Plan of Action to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C has been formulated. Although it is true that FGM/C is still being practiced in The Gambia, this harmful practice is being addressed by the Government and Civil Society Organisations through the Community Empowerment Programmes.

  2. UNFPA/UNICEF has been supportive in both financing public awareness programmes and sensitization of communities. The Community Empowerment Programme is based on certain experiences in Senegal and elsewhere, where basic education programme complemented by ‘organized diffusion’ in the communities, eventually led to the abandonment of FGM/C in numerous communities. It is on record, that so far in 900 communities in four regions, 128 assistant circumcisers have abandoned FGM between 2007 and 2013.

  3. Civil Society Organizations such as The Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFROW), The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) and the Association for the Promotion of Women and Girls Advancement (APGWA) champion the fight against FGM/C with appreciable results.

 

O. National human rights institutions

  1. The Gambia is in the process of establishing a National Human Rights Institution. A legal framework has been drafted and is now under consultations.

  2. While the Human Rights Commission is in the process of being established, the Office of the Ombudsman has a wide mandate similar to that of a National Human Rights Institution.

  3. The functions of the Ombudsman, is to investigate allegations of maladministration,
    mismanagement or discrimination in any Government department, authority, or other
    public body.

  4. The discrimination that the Ombudsman is mandated to investigate is on any grounds set out in Chapter IV of the Constitution, which is about the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and any failure to observe the code prescribed in Chapter XXI for the conduct of public officers.

  5. The Ombudsman Act of 1997 also gives the Ombudsman the mandate to investigate complaints of injustice, corruption, abuse of power, maladministration and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of his or her official duties.

  6. A total of 243 complaints were received between 2010 and 2012. The office of the
    Ombudsman has settled 40 cases on pension, gratuity and other social security benefits, 29
    cases on wrongful dismissals and termination of services, 17 cases on nonpayment of salary, 4 cases on injury compensation and 2 cases on discrimination. The Office of the Ombudsman has also investigated 5 cases on unlawful arrest and detention of people.

  7. In 2011 the Office of the Ombudsman opened an office in Mansakonko to serve the two regions of Lower River Region and North Bank Region. In January 2013 an office was opened in Kerewan for North Bank Region. The opening of offices in the regions is part of the decentralization programme aimed at making the Ombudsman’s services accessible to all.

  8. Heads of public institutions and communities in West Coast Region and North Bank Region, such as the police, teachers, chiefs and Alkalos (village heads) were sensitized on the role and functions of the Office of the Ombudsman in 2012 and 2013. There were also community meetings during which villagers were sensitised.

 

P. Right to life

  1. The right to life is guaranteed in section 18 of the 1997 Constitution. However this right is not absolute. The Constitution provides circumstances for which the death penalty may be prescribed as a sentence.

  2. The application of the death penalty is limited only to murder and treasonable offences. Even with that, it is only applied where the offence results in death, or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the death of another person. Thus, the fact that the death penalty is limited to these offences means it is quite an exceptional measure meant for “most serious crimes”.

  3. Furthermore, Gambian law prescribes that the procedural guarantees, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent tribunal, the presumption of innocence; the minimum guarantees for the defence and the right to review by a higher tribunal prescribed must be observed before the death penalty can be applied. These rights are applicable in addition to the particular right to seek pardon.

 

Q. National Council for Civic Education

  1. Corresponding with the 1997 Constitutional provision for The Gambia Civic Education programme, The Gambia National Council for Civic Education Act, 1998 was passed. The NCCE was created as an independent non-partisan Council under the Constitution, to design and co-ordinate Civic Education programmes and to serve as the advocacy component to the National Governance Programme.

  2. The Act thus places responsibility on the Council, for sensitizing, informing and educating the public, particularly those at the grassroots, of their rights and responsibilities under the Constitution. This institution acts as a forum for sensitization of the public on Democracy, Governance, Human Rights and policy issues.

  3. The state recognizes the relevance of the National Council for Civic Education and has so far increased its annual budget to D 2,775,969.44 in 2012 from D 2,074,389.00 in 2010; this also includes donor funding.

R. Asylum

  1. In 2013, the Government signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons 1954 and 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of statelessness, 1961 respectively. The Gambia has also domesticated the provisions of the Convention relating to the status of Refugees in the Refugees Act 2008 Cap 16.04 Laws of the Gambia.

  2. The Gambia Commission for Refugee (GCR) which is responsible for the security and protection of the refugees in The Gambia has been in existence since 2008. The Commission in its bid to provide a good protection environment to refugees issues visitors pass (laissez passer) to refugees which enables them to travel freely within the ECOWAS member states.

  3. The Government, in realization of the precarious situation of refugees and being
    mindful of its commitments under the relevant international instruments and domestic
    legislations has been and still continues to heavily invest in refugee management issues
    with a view to providing them with conducive protection as they search for the most
    favourable durable solution. The financial resource allocation for the Gambia Commission
    of Refugees was increased from D 621,285 in 2010 to D 1,126,053 in 2014.

  4. The Gambia Government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, gives
    refugees equal access and treatment in terms of cost of treatment in all government hospitals and health facilities as accorded to its citizens as stipulated Articles 12 – 30 of the Refugee Convention which set out the rights and obligation of the receiving state and that of the refugees.

  5. The Government of The Gambia through refugee host community leadership has been helping refugees to locally integrate in The Gambia if they so desired to by providing them with land to both build their homes and to farm on.

  6. During the Senegalese refugee influx in 2011 from Cassamance Senegal, the Government provided them with material assistance which includes food, shelter and clothing.

  7. The Government’s intervention in refugee management dates back to the early 1990s during which period both Liberia and Sierra Leone were experiencing political upheavals. During the period, thousands of their citizens in search of a safe heaven, opted to come to The Gambia where hundreds of them still continue to live despite a return to democracy in their home countries.

  8. Besides the remnants of Liberian and Sierra Leonean Refugees locally integrated and on exemption respectively, Senegalese Refugees from the troubled region of Cassamance numbering around twelve thousand, form the greater part of refugee population in The Gambia.

  9. It is the relative stability and a favourable protection environment that has continued
    to be the major pull factor for citizens of war torn countries within the sub-region and beyond to be seeking refuge in The Gambia.

 

S. Poverty

  1. The Government of The Gambia is committed to reducing poverty and has formulated a number of policies and strategies for this cause such as Vision 2020, The Development Strategy and Investment Programme for 2012 to 2015, called the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), which is the successor to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme II (PRSP II).

  2. PAGE’s main objective is to accelerate growth and employment, thereby reducing
    poverty and improving the well-being of the population. Key to overcoming these
    development challenges is the attainment of an accelerated growth rate of ten (10%) percent
    that is broad -based and creates employment.

  3. In terms of food security and agriculture, The Gambian Government`s priority is to
    transform the country into a major supplier of agricultural products to the local and
    international markets. A National Experts Committee and Agricultural Council has been
    formed to guide agricultural planning and policy within the period under review.

  4. Other Government planned measures comprise the provision of technical support
    including new technologies, the creation of financial opportunities for farmers to access
    long term loans to develop modern farms and the development of science parks to enhance
    the quality of primary produce.

  5. Strengthening government institutions and public financial management is also a national priority. Strategies have been formulated to upgrade human resource management plans to enable public servants to develop, deliver and enforce better policies, strengthen the national statistical systems and introduce a programme based budgeting system. The public finance system will be strengthened through the introduction of a medium-term expenditure framework which will enhance the efficiency of resource allocation, promote macroeconomic stability and improve public debt management.

  6. Enhancing social protection by responding to poverty and vulnerability and ensuring a decent standard of living for all Gambians through the reduction of risks and the creation of increased employment opportunities is another national development priority. The strategy through which this objective will be pursued will include the execution of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting more efficient labour markets and diminishing people`s exposure to risks thus enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and loss of income.

 

T. Reporting to UN treaty bodies

  1. The Gambia, since the last reporting period, has made strides in fulfillment of its treaty reporting obligations. A National Treaty Reporting Taskforce was established in 2011. The UNDP has also been supportive of the State`s desire of this cause. In 2012 it organized a workshop to train government officials on treaty reporting to the United Nations. A number of reports have been submitted for example in 2011, the Core Document and The Gambia’s initial report on the International Covenant on Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and a
report was also made to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of
Discrimination Against Women.

 

U. Universal Periodic Review 2010

  1. In a bid to implement the UN working groups recommendations on the UPR 2010
    for The Gambia, the Gambia constituted a multi-sectoral National Task Force constituting
    various Government Ministries and agencies, members of the civil society organizations to
    formulate a National Action plan for implementation of the aforementioned
    recommendations. This demonstrates the Government
    s political will to protect and
    promote human rights and furthermore to fulfill its international treaty obligations.

 

V. Special procedures

  1. The State has no objection to any special Rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights
    Council interested in visiting the Gambia in respect of the mandate of the Human Rights
    Council.

III. Constraints encountered by the State during the fulfilment of its human rights obligations

 

A. Justice sector

  1. The Gambia is a growing economy and the Judiciary is therefore faced with the challenge of an ever increasing demand for judicial redress. Thus there is the need for the establishment of more and more courts with the requisite human and material resources to run them. The Judiciary is however constraint by human, infrastructural, material and financial resources in order to more adequately execute its functions and enhance effective and efficient justice delivery.

  2. Other Government bodies tasked with the administration of justice such as the Ministry of Justice, the National Agency for Legal Aid, National Agency against Trafficking in Person and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat also experience similar challenges as that of the judiciary.

 

B. Ombudsman

  1. The main challenge the Office of the Ombudsman faces is financial. The decentralization programme has been constrained by limited resources. By 2012 all the regions were supposed to have an office but to date two regions, Central River Region and West Coast Region, have no offices. More funds are also needed for more sensitization to be conducted, especially on television and radio stations. The Office also needs additional vehicles to facilitate investigation and sensitization. There is also need for capacity building of staff members.

 

C. Police

  1. The gender and child welfare unit of the police force lacks logistics to transport child offenders. There are currently police and prison vans which do not have the capacity to separate child offenders from adult prisoners. There are also no child temporary detention centers at police stations.

 

D. Health

  1. With a rapidly growing population and increasing pressure on the limited resources
    on the health sector, the sector has over the years struggled to meet the demands for services. Inadequate finance and logistical support, shortage of adequately and appropriately trained health staff, high staff attrition and an inefficient referral system have over the years aggravated the problems of the sector. These problems have curtailed the gains made in reducing morbidity and mortality in the country. Specialist services are still high in The Gambia. Since most specialists are non-Gambians and usually on technical assistance, the withdrawal of such assistance could adversely affect the quality of services in the country. This state of affairs renders the health service delivery system of The Gambia quite vulnerable.

  2. In addition to vulnerability, due to reliance on non-Gambian health specialists, health funding in the country is heavily dependent on donor assistance. This raises issues of sustainability in the light of evidence of donor fatigue in the recent past.

  3. The emergence and increase in non-communicable disease such as hypertension and
    Diabetes has compounded these challenges and has proven to be a severe strain on the health delivery system.

 

E. Poverty eradication

  1. The country`s major challenges in the agriculture and food security sector are
    insufficient earnings and low levels of food security as a result of poor and variable
    performance.

 

F. Human trafficking

  1. The National Agency against Trafficking in Persons is limited in its operations in an effort to combat human trafficking by inadequate finance, mobility and logistical support.

G. Persons with disabilities

  1. The health sector lacks trained psychotherapists and Psychologists. It also is constrained by inadequate human and financial resources to address the increased demand for services.

 

H. Prisons

  1. The Ministry of Interior and Prisons services is constrained by both financial and logistical resources in its efforts to improve on the social welfare of the prisoners.

 

I. Asylum

  1. The Gambia Commission on Refugees (The Commission) has been constrained in its efforts to safeguard the interests of refugees by inadequate funds and logistics. The country also lacks transit centres for refugees and asylum seekers in both the rural and urban areas.

  2. Furthermore, there is also need for capacity building for staff members of the Gambia Commission on Refugees in areas of refugee management, refugee law and humanitarian law.

  3. In addition, The Commission also lacks a biometric refugee database in order to properly account for the accurate refugee population in the country.

IV. Best practices in the protection of human rights

 

A. Gender based violence

  1. The country has adopted legislative and administrative measures in combating gender based violence in the country. Since the Domestic violence Act 2013 and Sexual Offences Act 2013 were passed, mass public sensitizations of the provisions of the laws have been conducted.

 

B. Female genital mutilation

  1. A National Plan of Action to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C has been formulated. Although it is true that FGM/C is still being practiced in The Gambia, this harmful practice is being addressed by the Government and Civil Society Organizations through the Community Empowerment Programmes.

  2. In addition, a curriculum to teach the dangers of female genital mutilation and
    Human Rights has been adopted by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and teachers have been undergoing continuous training on the same.

  3. UNFPA and UNICEF have been supportive in both financing public awareness programmes and sensitization of communities. The Community Empowerment Programme is based on certain experiences in Senegal and elsewhere, where basic education programmes complemented by ‘organized diffusion’ in the communities, eventually led to

the abandonment of FGM/C in numerous communities.

 

C. Child rights protection

  1. In order to ensure rigorous enforcement of child rights protected related legislations, the Department of Social Welfare has trained law enforcers on these instruments, strengthening their capacity in investigation and interviewing techniques especially for crimes of sexual nature against children.

  2. It has also established child rights and protection units within the Gambia Police
    Force, Gambia Immigration Department and the Gambia Armed Forces and provides continuous capacity development to the officers in these Units.

  3. With support from UNICEF in 2012 the Department of Social Welfare developed a
    Child Protection Training Manual for the Gambia Police Force which has been mainstreamed into the training curriculum of the Gambia Police Training Academy. The Gambia Armed Forces also has a similar training manual, developed with support from Child Fund-The Gambia, which is part of the training curriculum of the Gambia Armed Forced Training School.

  4. Similar training Manuals have been developed on Prevention of Gender Based
    Violence by the Gambia Women’s Bureau in 2013 and Prevention of Child Sex Tourism by
    the Gambia Tourism Board in 2012.

  5. The Department of Social Welfare and Child Protection Alliance, with support from UNICEF, have established five Neighborhood Watch Groups within the Tourism Development Area of Senegambia, in the communities of Bakau, Kololi, Manjai Kunda, Bijilo and Kerr Serign.

  6. In order to promote child Justice, two additional Children`s Courts have been
    established in Basse and Brikama.

 

D. Poverty eradication

  1. The Government of The Gambia is committed to reducing poverty and has
    formulated a number of policies and strategies for this cause such as Vision 2020, The
    Development Strategy and Investment Programme for 2012 to 2015, called the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), which is the successor to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme II (PRSP II).

 

E. Justice sector

  1. To further strengthen the financial autonomy of the judiciary, the security of tenure
    and service conditions of judges, the Judicial Officers (Remuneration, Allowances and other Benefits) Bill, 2014 was promulgated and is currently in the consultation stage with other stakeholders.

 

V. Government response on Universal Periodic Review 2010

  1. The Gambia accepted recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council
    relating to non-discrimination, the rights of children, right to education, protection of
    women from all forms of discrimination and gender based violence, eradicating Female
    Genital Mutilation, Vulnerable persons and persons with disabilities, Justice Sector
    reforms, poverty eradication, establishment of National Human Rights Mechanisms and
    international corporation with UN mechanisms and treaty bodies for the promotion, protection and respect of Human Rights.

  2. The State however, rejected recommendations for the promotion of gay and Lesbians sexual orientation rights in the country, due to the fact that they were contrary to the religion, customs and beliefs of the people and the Constitution of The Gambia and those relating to even distribution of matrimonial property between men and women upon divorce and in cases of intestate succession. This was due to the fact that, in The Gambia, the Sharia Law is fundamental in distribution of property in some cases.

  3. The Government made a number of comments in respect to some recommendations to the Universal Periodic Review 2010 and these among others included.

  4. Regarding legal measures taken to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence against children in all settings and the Juvenile Justice System, The Gambia pointed out that there were laws in place to protect children against violence and all forms of abuse.

  5. On the issue of Juvenile justice, it reported that the Children`s Act, 2005 provided for the adequate protection of children in conflict with the law. It also stated that Government through the Ministry of Interior had identified sites where new corrective centers for child offenders would be erected and also pointed out that currently there was a separate juvenile wing for child offenders.

  6. In relation to womens rights, the Government pointed out that Womens Act 2010 incorporated the provisions of CEDAW, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The Government also reported that the National Gender and Women Empowerment Policy had been validated in May, 2010, stating that the policy had a whole section dealing with measures and strategies to eradicate violence against women and gender based violence.

  7. In response to the recommendation for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, the Government pointed out that the rights and activities of Human Rights Defenders are recognized and protected by Law. The State cited the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACHDHRS) which have had uninterrupted operations in the country for more than two decades as examples of its commitment to respect the rights of human rights defenders.

  8. In respect to the right to education, the Government stated that The Gambia is one of
    the leading African countries that have met the Millennium Development Goal in respect of
    primary school enrolment free of charge, as well as Gender parity under the Education for All and the Fast Track Initiative.

  9. The State pointed out that the recommendations on FGM had been discussed with key stakeholders such as the National Assembly members, religious leaders and women leaders. Subsequently, a National Steering Committee had been set up to review WASU Kafo`s study to determine if it can be used as evidence or whether there was need for a clinical and empirical study to be conducted. Government also pointed out that a social

study on FGM was also being conducted and was supported by UNICEF. An education programme on Gender and Religion was to be launched soon.

  1. In relation to independence of the Judiciary, the Government pointed out that the independence of the judiciary was guaranteed by the Constitution and that to ensure that these guarantees are strengthened, a Code of Conduct had been enacted for Judicial Officers in 2009 and further observed that the conditions of service and remuneration had also been improved tremendously during the 2008/2009 budget.

  2. On the moratorium on the death penalty, the Government commented that there was already a moratorium on the death penalty since 1995. However, it observed that the State did not intend to abolish the death penalty for it was a punishment for very serious crimes only, with adequate guarantees for the application of due process of the law.

  3. On recommendations in relation to National Human Rights Institutions, the Government observed that the possibility of having a separate NHRC or expanding the mandate of the office of the Ombudsman was being considered, and the State was looking forward to working with international and regional bodies for technical assistance in this area.

  4. Relating to the National Council on Civic Education, the Government observed that
    this institution was established by the Constitution and that it had approached UNDP and other international donors for financial assistance to NCCE.

  5. In response to the issue of treaty body reporting, the Government stated that in view
    of the serious capacity and financial constraints, The Gambia would endeavor within two years subject to technical and financial assistance from the United Nations and the International Community to submit all pending reports.

  6. Furthermore, in regard to special procedures, the Government stressed that The
    Gambia was committed to cooperate with the procedures and mandates and would treat with utmost urgency any request for invitations by them.

  7. On recommendations for ratification of specific Human Rights instruments, the
    Government delegation observed that the ratification process of the Convention on the
    Rights of Persons with Disabilities was far advanced. They pointed out that The Gambia
    was also considering the list of Human Rights instruments and would endeavour to ratify or
    accede to them. They however appealed for technical assistance in this area. It was also
    pointed out, that the two optional protocols on the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been ratified in April 2008 by the National Assembly and that the instruments had been sent to the United Nations Office in New York to be deposited.

 

VI. Recommendations

  1. The Government of The Gambia reiterates its commitment to uphold and promote Human Rights. However, as a State, it will need the support of the United Nations and other development partners, in order to do so effectively.

  2. The country appeals to the UN Human Rights Council, for both technical assistance and funding in the following areas.

  3. The Gambia Commission on Refugees currently lacks transit centers to keep refugees, before they are sent to their final destination. Therefore, we request for financial assistance to aid in establishing this centers.

  4. Furthermore, support is needed in capacity building of the staff members in aspects of Refugees and stateless persons administration and management.

  5. In addition, technical assistance will also be highly appreciated in areas of treaty reporting to the mechanisms and treaty bodies of the United Nations.

  6. The health sector is still in continuous need of both technical, financial and Human Resource support.

  7. The Justice sector, consisting of the Judiciary, Prisons Services Department, police, Ministry of Justice, National Agency Against Trafficking of Persons, National Agency for Legal Aid and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat, are also in need of continuous capacity building, training and funding from the United Nations.

VII. Conclusion

  1. In compliance with its international human rights obligations, The Gambia has ratified a number of Human Rights treaties and instruments. The Gambia is committed to the implementation of the international Human Rights instruments it is a party to and would continue in its endeavour to promote and protect Human Rights in the country, with the conviction that the respect for all human rights is a national responsibility.

Ends

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