President Adama Barrow has expressed his government’s commitment to continue to work with United Nations as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has started its investigation in Gambia.
“We maintain an open-door policy and we are ready to cooperate. You can be sure that there is political will for your investigation,” President Barrow assured UN expert group during a closed-door meeting held last Thursday at State House.
The UN team has started its work in the country from June 12 and is expected to end its tour next Monday. The group is meeting with
various stakeholders including relatives of disappeared people. The visiting delegation is comprised of the Chair-Rapporteur is Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).
The Gambian leader said he would welcome technical and/or financial support from groups like the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. “Because we need all the help that we can get after 22 years of seeing the human rights of our people violated, said the Gambian leader. We now have zero tolerance for human rights violations,” he said.
President Barrow said his government’s approach was that of justice and security for all in the eyes of the law. “We believe in the rule of law and we will not compromise our democratic principles,” he added.
Speaking earlier, Chairperson and Rapporteur Houria Es-Slami said that the Group’s primary task was to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who were reportedly disappeared. She explained that they were in The Gambia to meet with stakeholders on a fact finding tour concerning the disappearances of individuals – non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, government officials and families as part of their investigation.
Ms Es-Slami further stated that political support was important in such investigations, and thanked President Barrow for the support and cooperation that her team was receiving. She stressed that it was important to pursue a consultative approach with families and civil society, where they are encouraged to feel ownership in the process.
Commenting on the upcoming truth and reconciliation commission announced by Gambian authorities, Henrikas Mickevicius, a member of the experts group, urged that things not be done too fast with regard to the setting up of said commission. He then added that if things were done too quickly, there was a risk they could backfire. Like Ms Es-Slami, he emphasized the value of a participatory approach in the process with civil society.
For efficiency, the Working Group is advocating a comprehensive one-stop shop that would address truth, reconciliation, reparations
and guarantees for non-occurrence. They advised that criminal justice might be addressed separately.
The Working Group officials told the President that the investigation was a lengthy process, which would lead to a report in 2018, but which would produce preliminary observations before then. They explained that this visit was just the beginning of that process.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Minister Ousainou Darboe, who attended the meeting, said that these matters would certainly be on the agenda for discussion in the new legislative session in Parliament.
UN Resident Coordinator Ade Lekeoje accompanied the delegation on the visit to State House.
Source: Stated House