The Gambia: Ready to ratify!
Banjul, the Gambia: The CTI-Ghana delegation that visited Banjul on 26-27 February was given resounding assurances from all government services that the Gambia will ratify the Convention against Torture (UNCAT) very soon and that there will be no repeat of the excesses of the past.
The CTI-Ghana delegation was headed by Hon. Deputy Minister Charles Owiredu, who was accompanied by Ambassador Ramses Joseph Cleland, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN in Geneva and Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat. They had a full schedule of meetings including with the Minister of Justice, H.E. Mr. Abubacarr Tambadou, the Minister of Interior, H.E. Mr. Ebrima Mballow, judges of the Supreme Court, and directors and staff of prisons, police, health and social welfare, and the intelligence services.
Deputy Minister Owiredu informed the Gambian authorities that the visit had a “peaceful purpose” of inviting the Gambia to ratify UNCAT at the earliest opportunity, to join the CTI initiative as a Friend, and to hear about the progress on ratification and challenges for implementation, including offering technical assistance. It was agreed by all that the timing of the visit was perfect as a follow-up to President Barrow’s commitment to the African Commission to ratify in October last year, but also for the Gambia to show its resolve internationally to make a break with the past and further in light of ongoing security sector reform and the upcoming start of the significant Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Abubacarr Tambadou, noted that the Gambia had decided to listen to the victims of past torture and other abuses: “For some victims, they want an apology, others want to see their perpetrators prosecuted and jailed, others want compensation. Gambia’s approach is to allow the victims to take the lead as to what justice means for them.” He reiterated that the Gambia will, having already signed the Convention, take the next step of ratification, followed by implementation.
The Minister of Interior H.E. Mr. Ebrima Mballow, the Director General of the State Intelligence Services Mr. Ousman Sowe, and the Inspector General of Gambian Police Commissioner Landing Kinteh, each observed that interviewing suspects and gathering intelligence is a process that does not require torture and that there had been no such allegations since the Government of President Barrow had come to office in early 2017. They were committed to “democratising” their institutions and saw themselves as being responsible to the public, not to politics.
Reflecting on the visit, Deputy Minister Owiredu observed, “The transition made so far in the Gambia is truly inspirational. We heard many positive developments in the justice, security and prisons sectors that signal that the new Gambian dispensation is committed to the rule of law and the fair administration of justice, which are issues at the heart of the Convention against Torture.”
Only five countries are left to ratify UNCAT in Africa, with the Gambia being one of them. The visit was an important opportunity to express the solidarity of the CTI core States of Chile, Denmark, Indonesia, Morocco and Ghana, with the Gambian government. The CTI stands ready to discuss future technical cooperation with the Gambian authorities.
Other members of the CTI-Ghana delegation included:
Mr. Samuel BAAH DUODU, Deputy Director and PA to the Deputy Minister
Mr. Hanaan Nkyi ASAKU, Assistant Director of the Legal and Consular Bureau
Mr. Frederick Mintah-Agyemang, Counsellor, Ghana Embassy in Senegal