By Ramatoulie Jawo
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of The Gambia held a two-day workshop on September 15-16, 2023, with the Members of the National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters and the Gender Committee. The workshop was on the human rights obligations of The Gambia, both domestic and international.
The workshop was aimed at building the capacity of the National Assembly Members to better understand and uphold human rights in their work.
During the two-day capacity-building workshop, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will be able to raise awareness among National Assembly Members of the human rights obligations of the State, as set out in human rights instruments signed by the State and other adopted human rights norms and standards.
The workshop will help the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to educate Members of Parliament (MPs) about their role in ensuring the full and effective implementation of the White Paper on the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Report. It will also help the NAMs to hold the executive branch of government accountable for providing justice, redress, and reparation to the victims and survivors of human rights violations.
At the opening ceremony, Commissioner Njundu Drammeh said that the workshop was important to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in many ways.
He explained that the NHRC reports to the National Assembly, which has an oversight role over the commission. He also said that the NHRC has established a strong relationship with the National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters.
Commissioner Drammeh thanked the committee for their continuous cooperation and encouragement towards the work of the NHRC.
“Significantly, you are also the eyes, the ears, and the mouths of the people and therefore, your role in the promotion and protection of human rights is absolutely significant. Three important roles that you have is you legislate, you have an oversight functions, especially over the executive and all of us, but you also approve the national budget, and all the three functions are linked to the promotion and protection of human rights, enjoyment of civil, political, economical, social and cultural rights,” he said.
Commissioner Drammeh emphasized that the National Assembly Members’ responsibilities encompass the full spectrum of human rights and the safeguarding of these rights.
“Few issues I want to also highlight, we know that there is a whole debate around universality of human rights and what is called cultural relativism; we understand that. But we also understand that human rights are universal, as Kofi Annan said, human rights are foreign to no culture and native to all people and all nations,” he said.
Dr. Desta Tiruneh, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative who is deputizing for the UN Resident Coordinator, said the workshop is timely because the country is undergoing a transitional justice process. He added that this process is associated with many human rights and legal developments.
“This workshop is an opportunity for you (NAMs) to strengthen your capacity towards advancing human rights in other areas such as promoting the rights of the vulnerable groups to ensure no one is left behind on matters of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights,” he said
Hon. Seedy S.K. Njie, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of The Gambia, said that the two-day workshop organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is intended to help members of the National Assembly (NAMs) better understand their oversight role in relation to human rights issues and related matters. The workshop will also help NAMs become familiar with the functions of the NHRC.
“The other objective of this workshop is for the Commission to enlighten Hon. Members on the status of implementation of the Government’s White Paper on the report of the TRRC as the NHRC is recommended as the body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the TRRC recommendations,” he said
The Deputy Speaker encouraged his fellow Members to participate actively in the discussions. He expressed optimism that the knowledge gained in the forum would further enhance the skills of the Honorable Members in their role of supporting the NHRC in the full realization of human rights in the country.