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28.07.2009 General News

CHRI DROPS HINT TO GO TO COURT OVER UN-ECOWAS REPORT… In the case of Ghanaians killed in The Gambia

By Phyllis D. Osabutey - Ghanaian Chronicle
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THE COMMONWEALTH Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa office, has stated its readiness to go to court or the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), to obtain a copy of the report on the extra-judicial killing and or disappearance of forty-four Ghanaian men in The Gambia.

This follows the government's inability to furnish the CHRI, and other interest groups such as families of the victims with a copy of the report, hence the Coordinator of CHRI, Nana Oye Lithur, pointed out, “if we have to go to court or CHRAJ to get it, we will do so.”

She said the CHRI started a process in November 2006 to seek justice for fifty Africans, the majority of who were Ghanaians and were traveling to Europe through The Gambia, when they were intercepted, illegally detained without due process, and later some were murdered by security forces in The Gambia.

Nana was speaking at a public forum on human rights in The Gambia on the occasion of Gambia's Freedom Day, which fell on Wednesday, July 22.

She said their activities included the creation of the Gambian Taskforce in 2007, which was a network with the Africa Legal Aid to raise public awareness on the incident in the Africa region, to fight against “the impunity of the perpetrators and seek redress for the victims.”

The CHRI also called on the Ghana Government to expedite investigations into the killings, and take the necessary legal and other action to prosecute the perpetrators, she recalled.

She indicated that when such an action was not forthcoming, the organiaation filed a complaint with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to conduct investigations into the matter, and demand cooperation of the Gambian authorities.

Nana said the expert fact-finding committee at the sub-regional level that was set up to investigate the incident on August 14, 2008, finalised its report and submitted the final report to the United Nations (UN) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on April 3, 2009.

According to her, the report, which established among other things that the daily diaries and daily logs of both the Banjul and Bundun police stations confirmed the presence, period of detention, and subsequent release of two groups of individuals at each of the respective facilities during the period, was subsequently submitted to the respective governments.

However, “until now, a copy of the UN-ECOWAS investigation team's report has not been furnished to us to make our own independent assessment of the recommendations, and our persistent calls for a dialogue meeting with the Minister have not received any response,” she lamented.

Already, the CHRI had expressed its disappointment over the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the two governments, because the “bilateral agreements were concluded without recourse to the families of the victims.”

It further described it as a travesty of justice that of all the 44 Ghanaians whose names the UN-ECOWAS team established were duly recorded in Gambian police stations, “only six have been acknowledged by both governments to deserve compensation, and disregarding the only-known Ghanaian survivor, who has until date received no assistance from government.”

Furthermore, the CHRI called on the Ghana government to show more commitment in seeking justice for the 44 Ghanaians, stressing, “The report of the independent fact-finding mission must be publicised for stakeholders to appreciate the basis on which the conclusions were reached.”

This, Nana explained, would help unearth the facts of the case, and contribute immensely in aiding the relatives through their healing process, give them a fair account of what actually happened, and bring closure to the pain they had endured over the years.

“Similarly, The Gambian Government must account for the lives of the Ghanaians who have been missing to date. The truth must be told, justice must be seen to be done, and should not be sacrificed on the whims of diplomatic terms,” CHRI stressed.

Nana stated that it was important to remind the Ghanaian public and international community of the continued acts of repression, tyranny, arbitrary arrests and detention, extra-judiciary killings, and disappearances that still continue in The Gambia without redress.

“The growing incidents of insecurity in The Gambia potentially pose a threat to the peace and security in the sub-region, and should for such reason, no longer be tolerated,” urging the Ghana government to “press for the ultimate solution to this case, which is nothing short of prosecuting the perpetrators that have been identified, and demonstrate its commitment to the protection of the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and the fight against impunity in all manner of form and spirit.”

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