Thursday, October 15, 2009

ECOWAS Network of National Human Rights Institutions Meets

The Network of National Human Rights Institutions of ECOWAS Member States have convened a three day meeting in Banjul to review the state of Human Rights in member states.
The meeting, which opened on Tuesday, will lay emphasis on the challenges and achievements in the various member countries.

In his welcoming remarks, ECOWAS Commission Adviser, Democracy and Good Governance, Prof. Ade Adefuye, said the existence of Human Rights Institutions is an important means by which ECOWAS intends to build, sustain and strengthen institutions that contribute towards democracy and good governance in the region.

“The existence of these National Human Rights Institutions as well as regional and continental human rights networks are means by which governments seeks to ensure the existence of human rights of its citizens,” he said.

Prof. Adefuye added that every ECOWAS Member State has its national human rights institution headed by top government officials armed with the mandate to ensure the survival and implementation of human rights principles.

He, however, noted that they are not entirely satisfied with the level of autonomy granted to these national institutions by their respective national governments. He said that there is much that needs to be done as far as their mode of operation is concerned.

“No matter the level of development within the political entity, if the citizens are deprived their human rights, they cannot feel happy and contented,” Prof. Adefuye remarked.

He added that one of the things they hope to achieve from this meeting is to seek ways by which the cause of human rights in the region can be enhanced and strengthened.

As part of the meeting, Mr. Adefuye further stated that they will consider a draft Constitution which will provide a guide for their activities and assist them in the objective of promoting human rights in the region.

The Commission Adviser on Good Governance and Democracy said ECOWAS at every level is doing all it can to ensure proper adherence to the ideals and principles of their Protocol. He said the objective of the founding fathers of ECOWAS can only be achieved if the human rights of the citizens are maintained, protected, given the expression in their ability to elect their own governments, enjoying equality before the law amongst others..

In officially opening the meeting, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, Isatou Graham , Senior State Counsel, said the Gambia is yet to establish a national human rights institution but noted that they are working closely towards that direction.

Madam Graham highlighted some of the strides achieved in the areas of human rights such as the signing of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa that recognises that women have a right not to be subjected to violence, injury, abuse and harmful traditional practices. She said they have also domesticated other significant Conventions as substantive law such as Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, and the Children’s Act of the Gambia 2005.

Editor’s note

According to Article 35 of the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance

1 .”Member states shall establish independent National Institutions to promote and protect Human Rights

2. “The executive Secretariat shall take measures to strengthen their capacities. The institutions shall be organised into a regional network.

“Within the framework of this network, each national institution shall systematically submit to the executive secretariat, any report on human rights violations observed in its territory.

“Such reports and reactions of governments shall be widely disseminated through the most appropriate means.”

Article 36 states that “Member states shall institutionalise a national mediation system”.

There is therfore no room for violation of human rights with impunity in any ECOWAS state.

Source: foroyaa news paper
Submitted by Fatou C Malang

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