Panelists During Their Panel Discussion
By Ramatoulie Jawo
On Saturday, in commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Women’s Association for Victims Empowerment (WAVE), in partnership with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), victims, and other stakeholders, commemorated the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with discussions on how to push the Gambia government to implement the Anti-Torture Act 2023.
The event, funded by Freedom House through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), brought together diplomats, government officials, representatives of human rights organizations, senior counsels, victims of Jammeh’s regime, senior members of the security services, and civil society organizations (CSOs).
The discussion focused on enabling stakeholders to develop a plan for ensuring the full implementation of the Anti-Torture Act. The plan will also include raising awareness of the Act among victims of torture.
This is in line with WAVE’s strategic priority of ensuring accountability and justice for all victims of torture. WAVE also promotes and supports the participation of women in the country’s transitional justice process and the realization of the “Never Again” slogan.
On behalf of the Minister of Justice, Hussein Thomasi, the Solicitor General, commended the association for this important initiative. He stated that this initiative is part of the implementation program agenda of post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) activities.
He said the Gambian government has demonstrated its commitment to preventing torture by signing and ratifying the UN Convention against Torture. The government has also taken the bold step of domesticating the convention, by passing a law relating to the prevention and prohibition of torture. This law was passed by the National Assembly last month and has now become law.
“We have done our part. Now, is on the part for implementation, Why do we have a law against torture? The convention recognizes that the prohibition of torture is essential to the promotion of peace, justice, and fundamental freedoms,’’ said Thomasi.Mr. Thomasi stated that torture is never permissible, even in emergency situations. Torture in all forms should be prohibited. He went on to say that they are currently working on establishing a Hybrid Court and other mechanisms to ensure accountability and justice for victims of torture as identified by the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
“We will put in place a court that will try torture in the country, and ensure justice to those whose rights were violated and those who suffered torture during the 22 years regime of former president Jammeh. I can assure you that there is a political will to establish the Hybrid Court and fulfil its mandate,’’ he assured.
The Solicitor General confirmed that work on the project is already underway and that the process is going well. He also announced that a communications strategy will be released in due course, which will explain every step of the process to the public.
“I also just want to assure you that the government is committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the TRRC. And it has started working honestly in the implementation of the recommendations. We’re currently working with development partners, and so far, the support we are receiving is overwhelming and very encouraging,’’ he said
Judy Oder, a representative from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed gratitude for how the Gambia was able to enact an Anti-Torture Act in line with the convention against torture of the UN, She called on all stakeholders, including states and societies to unity in support of hundreds of thousands of torture victims around the world.
“Victims of torture must have the support they need, in order to also contribute to the growth, economy, and success of any community or nation. So, it is very important should not only look at the laws in place but the support victims need. To ensure they live a full, liberated life,’’ she said.
Alhagie S Nyang, Advocacy Specialist of Freedom House, said they are pleased to support these stakeholders’ discussion on the Anti-Torture Act 2023. He went on to say that the purpose of their project on Promoting Rights and Justice in the Gambia, is to support the ongoing reform and transitional justice process in the Gambia.
He said they build the capacity of the media and CSOs to be able to effectively carry out their functions.
“Since we are celebrating the human rights festival, we want to extend our sympathy to all the victims of torture. The coming up of the Anti-Torture Law by the Gambia government is also something that is commendable. We hope CSOs and the media will ensure the proper implementation of this law,’’ he said