“Access to Justice is a Fundamental Human Right”

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By Nelson Manneh

Commissioner Emmanuel Daniel Joof, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said access to justice is a fundamental human right.

The Human Rights Commission’s head made this statement on Tuesday, June 21 during the commencement of a two-day conference on access to justice in The Gambia.

In 2021, the NHRC in collaboration with the Judiciary of The Gambia, Ministry of Justice, the Gambia Bar Association and other stakeholders, organised its first conference on access to justice.

The conference resulted in the adoption of a Communiqué with various resolutions for implementation by stakeholders. This year’s edition is intended to renew the discussion on the subject, consolidate the efforts of stakeholders as well as map out innovative approaches to enhance access to justice in The Gambia.

“Access to justice is beyond the establishment of court complexes. Here we are looking at the affordability, where people should go to if they feel their rights have been tampered with,” he said.

He added rule of law is meaningless if there is no access to justice. “We have seen land cases coming up and they need to be addressed appropriately,” he hinted.

“Justices should be accessible, it should be affordable and it should be delivered at the right time,” he said.

Justice Awa Bah, a judge at the Supreme Court of The Gambia, said rule of law should serve as a watchdog to democracy.

“Having legal structures like courts is not enough; we need adequate Judges and Magistrates to deliver justice at the appropriate time. The National Legal Aid needs to be strengthened so that poor people who come to conflict with the law can be appropriately represented,” she said.

Justice Bah said legal representation in the Gambia is very expensive and that is why many people lose their cases, adding the conference will help the Human Rights Commission, the Judiciary and other stakeholders to work together in making sure that justice is accessible.