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October 05, 2023

ABA ROLI Holds Human Rights Training for Justice Sector Actors in The Gambia

As a part of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative's (ABA ROLI) Promoting Rights and Justice (PRJ) project, representatives from across The Gambia gathered in July to deepen their knowledge and strengthen their capacity to provide access to justice for victims of human rights violations. Participants honed their craft in this week-long training session through discussion of the myriad of issues blocking the path to accountability—issues that seem less daunting when confronted by participation from The Gambian civil society and government actors alike.

The diverse composition of participants from across the judicial sector proved to be a unique and valuable facet of the training session. The 40 participants were drawn from the Ministry of Justice to The Gambia Bar Association (GBA), to other governmental and civil society organizations. These groups addressed common issues such as women’s rights, children’s rights, access to justice, trafficking in persons, the media, and transitional justice.

Group photo of participants, moderators and speakers from the HR Training in The Gambia.

Group photo of participants, moderators and speakers from the HR Training in The Gambia.

July 2023.

As for the curricula, the workshop focused on The Gambia’s obligations within international human rights law. Participants first began by contextualizing African regional and international approaches for human rights litigation, then transitioned to learning how to effectively engage with these institutions. Later, participants delved further into methods of promoting and enhancing international human rights jurisprudence to ensure access to justice for victims of human rights violations. 

By promoting confidence in and fostering engagement with the workings of international legal instruments, this training session built the capacity of the GBA and other civil society activists to take on strategic litigation, class action cases, and constitutional claims to promote and protect human rights.

While ABA ROLI gave traditional and theoretical instruction on selected legislation and mechanisms, there was also an emphasis on practical training where participants learned how to comfortably engage with these very instruments. Notably, trainees completed mock procedures for preparing, submitting, and delivering oral and written statements; submitting information for inclusion into reports; organizing side events; and advocating at meetings of enforcement or monitoring mechanisms. This ensured that participants not only understood the procedure in theory but were emboldened by practical mastery of how to navigate varied and complex legal infrastructures. 

The practical exercises also entailed thematic case study presentations. Facilitators’ guides were developed for each theme, and participants were asked to synthesize selected reading materials and practice implementation.

Group work presentation by participants.

Group work presentation by participants.

July 2023.

The four groups presented as follows:

Group One: Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)

a) File a complaint to the CEDAW Committee on restrictive laws on/prevalence of SGBV and present it before a panel of the CEDAW Committee.

b) Develop comprehensive Guidelines on handling SGBV Cases – The Justice Chain.

Group Two: Organize and simulate a side event at the Human Rights Council Session 53 on at least one recommendation received by The Gambia.
Group Three: Organize a Panel discussion at the Sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on Torture- Laws - National and regional, policies, incidences in The Gambia.
Group Four: 

a) Engage the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime Review Mechanism through the Plenary of the Conference of Parties. 

b) Make a presentation on Trafficking in Persons utilizing the Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (The Palermo Protocol).

c) Present evidence and analysis on trafficking in persons especially women and children in The Gambia.

The case study exercises were a great opportunity for participants to meet in small groups and discuss issues of interest in depth. The final group project took the form of panel discussion simulations, side events, and mock presentations at the monitoring/enforcement mechanisms. Every group received constructive feedback from a panel of experts and fellow participants. 

Additionally, venerated legal figures presented on various thematic panels throughout the week. In collaboration with the ABA Center for Human Rights and the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, Judge James M. Riehl (Ret.) shared lessons learned with the group. Riehl, who served as Kitsap County District Judge for 32 years in addition to being a judicial liaison to the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, spoke particularly on the topic of “Sexual and Gender Based Violence- International Best Practices: The Role of the Judge….on and off the Bench”, thus facilitating a great opportunity for knowledge sharing.  

Panelists and moderator presenting on Sexual and Gender Based Violence- International Best Practices.

Panelists and moderator presenting on Sexual and Gender Based Violence- International Best Practices.

July 2023.

The training’s combination of theory, procedure, enrichment, and practice left a meaningful impression on the group. As one participant from civil society succinctly shared: 

“I cannot remember since 2010 when The Gambia started interacting with the UPR whether we have such a magnitude of this training where we have a cross section of participants…I recommend that this should be a continuous engagement between civil society and other human rights actors to make sure that at the end of the day we are able to promote the culture of human rights in this country.”

Lamin Fatty, Child Protection Network

Overall, this summer session spurred discussions on the crucial need to foster collaboration among justice sector actors and civil society to address the plethora of challenges faced in accessing justice, especially for human rights abuses. While it is uncommon to have such a broad spectrum of attendees, the collective undergoing the same training helps dispel the notion that it is difficult for state institutions and civil society to commune to further the cause to defend human rights for people in The Gambia.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.