National Human Rights Commission calls for investigation into Garawol incident – as it makes it clear discrimination has no place in Gambia

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The National Human Rights Commission has insisted discrimination of any type including one based on caste has no place in a civilised society, as it reacted to an incident in Garawol.

A group considered slaves in Garawol recently reportedly came under ill treatment after they conducted Eid prayers in the village. The act caused their imam to be fined in default to leave the village.

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NHRC said today: “Discriminatory practices and incidences within identified communities in URR have come to the attention of the Commission which it finds abhorrent to the dignity and person of the affected people, who are commonly referred to by the derogatory term “slaves” mostly by those who regard themselves as ‘nobles’. The Commission, set up to protect the rights of all people in The Gambia, condemns in the strongest terms all acts of human rights violations and discrimination against the people affected. Discrimination of any type or nature, including one based on caste, has no place in a civilized society and certainly not in The Gambia where the 1997 Constitution accords every citizen and resident equal rights and protection and a free and dignified life.

“Since October 2019 to date, NHRC has conducted two fact-finding missions to the communities of Diabugu, Koina and Garawol which revealed the existence of the caste system in these communities and that of a long-standing traditional practice that subjects ‘slaves’ to tedious, and sometimes degrading, jobs for their ‘masters’ or ‘nobles’ In extreme cases, the affected group has reported physical attacks on some of their members. Following the 2019 fact-finding mission, NHRC reported its findings through its annual report and made recommendations to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights on medium- and long-term solutions to ending this issue.

“The NHRC requests the government to urgently set up a task force comprising of relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Ministry of Interior, representatives of the Supreme Islamic Council, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and the NHRC to look into the current troubles in the area and to also examine and implement the recommendations proposed by the NHRC to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights.”

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