By: Ndey Sowe
The African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), celebrated its 30th anniversary of existence on 23rd October 2018, at a local hotel in Senegambia. The ACDHRS aims to strengthening civil society partnership to inspire greater respect for human rights and democracy in Africa and building together an Africa without human rights violations.
The Chief Justice Hassan B Jallow in his statement, said the struggle for human rights and democracy is a moving target that requires strong individuals and institutional transformation, to help the continent move from communities of violations, into communities of justice; that as a member of the founding fathers of the ACDHRS, their aim is to build and sustain a culture of respect for human rights; that this depends less on the benevolence of Governments but more on the vigilance of individuals or institutions acting alone or in concert with civil society.
“Justice and human rights are solid foundations for peace and progress and the insistence of individuals on their rights being respected. Hence the crucial role of civil society in transforming our societies into communities of justice,” he told the gathering. He continued that the centre must therefore intensify efforts to raise public awareness on human rights, to strengthen civil society capacity and ensure effective remedies are available to victims of human rights violations, by putting in place adequate rules, to cover the rights of all people. “We must strive to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable for their misdeeds,” he said.
The Chief Justice commended the centre for taking the bold step in 1994, to sever as link with the military Government of Yaya Jammeh, which gave it an opportunity to grow as an independent and autonomous human rights organisation; that Africa has been haunted in the past two decades for its failure of ignoring criminal accountability for mass crimes.
He called for the need to ensure national, regional and international institutions to deal with human rights violations and ensure that those who perpetrate these violations, are brought to account through a process of criminal justice.
The Chief Justice paid special tribute to former President Jawara as the first patron of the Centre, whose Government took a decision to establish the centre, to discharge a promotional function in the field of human rights; that despite those challenging times for democracy and human rights in Africa, the Gambia was a beacon of hope for many.
“Even as we stood on the brink of a military takeover, there was a democratic survey conducted by Independent Newspaper in March 1994, in which the country scored ten out of ten points, in terms of respect and adherence to the principles of democracy. The survey disclosed that the country had the seventh fastest growing economy in Africa,” he concludes.