Historic step: The Gambia fulfils its promise to ratify the UN Convention against Torture

Banjul, The Gambia: At the invitation of The Gambia’s Ministry of Justice, CTI concluded last week an important seminar supporting the Government to implement the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

H.E. Ebrima Mballow, Minister of Interior, Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat and H.E. Abubacarr Tambadou, Minister of Justice discussing collaboration between the Government of The Gambia and CTI.
H.E. Ebrima Mballow, Minister of Interior, Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat and H.E. Abubacarr Tambadou, Minister of Justice discussing collaboration between the Government of The Gambia and CTI.

The seminar brought together over 40 participants with technical assistance provided by international practitioners and experts. Participants were drawn from justice, police, intelligence, drug enforcement, immigration, corrections and social welfare, as well as judges, magistrates and prosecutors. Staff of the newly established Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission also attended. The seminar was geared to assisting The Gambia to prepare the groundwork for implementing the Convention by reviewing existing national practices and identifying key reform priorities, following their ratification of the UN Convention on 28th September 2018.

The Gambia’s ratification is a strong expression of the Barrow Government’s continued commitment to promote and protect human rights. The Gambia’s decision to ratify UNCAT was one of the key pledges President Barrow made in 2017 while attending the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Gambia becomes the 165th State party to the Convention. The Gambia also ratified the related instrument, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Speaking on becoming a State party and its importance for The Gambia, the Minister of Justice, Hon. Abubacarr Tambadou, said at the seminar:

“The priority of the government is to put in place a new and resilient architecture to uphold the highest standards when it comes to human rights, justice and rule of law. The Gambia’s ratification of the UN Convention against Torture shows our commitment to protecting persons from the heinous crimes of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

He added: “It is equally important that protection from torture isn’t just about enacting laws on paper but also a combination of measures, such as reforming and strengthening public intuitions and providing rigorous and continuous trainings and capacity building to various stakeholders especially law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, prosecutors and prison authorities.”

In October 2017, Hon. Minister Tambadou attended CTI’s regional event on the administration of justice for States from Africa, Asian and the Middle East sharing similar legal frameworks and cultural traditions, held in Fes, Morocco. On behalf of Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Morocco, H.E. Mohamed Auajjar, Ambassador Omar Zniber, Permenant Representative of the Kingdom to the UN in Geneva, was particularly pleased to welcome this new ratification:

“The new Gambian government has shown real commitment by moving away from past practices and for embracing international principles. The UN Convention against Torture is a treaty grounded in the basic tenets of our shared humanity and dignity, and places important limits on the excesses of wrong behaviour.”

The CTI has been pleased to collaborate with and support the Government of The Gambia over the past year, including through a visit to Banjul in February 2018 by a CTI diplomatic delegation headed by Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hon. Deputy Minister Charles Owiredu and including Ambassador Ramses Joseph Cleland, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations in Geneva and Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat.

Speaking from Accra, Hon. Deputy Minister Charles Owiredu congratulated The Gambia on their ratification:

“The Gambia’s ratification is particularly significant. It is an additional sign that they are serious about the new era of democracy and rule of law, in which all Gambian citizens and residents can live free from fear of torture and ill-treatment. Ghana and the CTI Core States warmly congratulate The Gambia on becoming the 165th State party to the UN Convention against Torture.”

As a State-led initiative with the primary goal to reach universal membership of the Convention by 2024, The Gambia’s ratification has been welcomed as a positive global and regional example. With only four States left to ratify in Africa, the momentum on the continent for reaching regional universality is building.

Also opening the seminar, Hon. Ebrima Mballow, Minister of the Interior, added:

“This seminar is timely. It is important [-] to increase the capacity of security services to ensure their adherence to human rights norms while carrying out their mandates. This in turn would help rebuild public confidence in these important institutions essential to maintaining the security and order of the country. Forums such as these are crucial to complement government efforts and assist it to achieve its target.”

The seminar was part of a CTI package of support for newly ratifying States parties, allowing exchange on policy, legislative and practical priorities, and benefiting from the expert advice and technical assistance of: Mr. Jean-Baptiste Niyizurugero, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Prevention of Torture in Africa and the Association for the Prevention of Torture’s Africa Programme Officer; Ms. Ruth Ssekindi, Director of Monitoring and Inspections of Uganda’s Human Rights Commission; Mr. Steve Banks-Smith, International Policing Consultant, London, England; and Ms. Annah Moyo, Advocacy Programme Manager, The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa. The seminar was facilitated by Dr. Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat, who also attended the official launch of The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation Commission during her stay.

The CTI workshop programme is available here.

Press covering the event is available here.

States that are interested in joining the Convention can get in touch directly with the CTI Core States of Chile, Denmark, Ghana, Indonesia or Morocco through their diplomatic representations in Geneva or New York, or via the CTI Secretariat, info@cti2024.org.

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