ARMS-OF-JUSTICE-198x300 (JollofNews) – Human rights are not a privilege but a right for all Gambians. Therefore, it is the collective duty of the state, leaders and individuals to respect the rights of every single Gambian citizen, resident and visitor.

Let’s start by defining human rights to avoid any confusion. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”

OHCHR further stated that, universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law.

International human rights law lays down obligations of governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Based on the definition and understanding of human rights, therefore it can be concluded that all Gambian citizens, residents and visitors are equally entitled to their human rights without discrimination by the government, law enforcement agents or fellow ordinary Gambian citizens and residents.

Every Gambian citizen and resident or visitor is entitled to certain fundamental rights, simply by the fact of being human. These are called “human rights” rather than a privilege. They are “rights” because they are things you are allowed to be, to do or to have. These rights are there to protect against harming or hurting people and above all they are also there to help promote peace and unity.

It could be argued that a good number of people in the Gambia know something about their rights. For example most people will tell you they know they have a right to be paid for the work they do. But there are many other rights that the people don’t know about, and that is a problem because when human rights are not well-known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression, and other human rights abuses can arise.

Born out of the atrocities and enormous loss of life during the Second World War, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948 to provide a common understanding of what everyone’s rights are. It forms the basis for a world built on freedom, justice and peace.

I have selected a few articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and these are highlighted below:
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20.  (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

The above highlighted are just some articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all Gambian citizens and residents should know about. Individuals can learn more about them on the United Nations website.

With the understanding that human rights are not a privilege, therefore there is a duty for the government of the Gambia to ensure that every single citizen, resident and visitor enjoy their rights.

In addition, the Gambia as a member state of the United Nations have pledged to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Considering the reports by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International drawing attention to the poor human rights record of the Gambia, the government should not lose sight of this pledge.

In conclusion, let us remember these words: “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity” Mother Theresa.

Andrew Mendy
London (United Kingdom)