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His Lordship Hassan Jallow, Chief Justice to the Republic of The Gambia.  The Honorable Dawda A. Jallow, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.  Njundu Drammeh, Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission.  Ambassador Sharon L. Cromer, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia, and International Development Law Organization colleagues.

I am pleased to be with you all today for the official launch of the Improving Access to Justice in The Gambia project.  This U.S. government project represents a vision shared by both our countries:  to deliver equitable, impartial, and efficient justice for all our people.

For more than two decades the authoritarian regime of the past carried out extensive violations of fundamental human rights and basic freedoms in The Gambia and undermined the vision of a just society.  In 2016, the Gambian people refused to continue suffering in silence, and, in an historic and deeply courageous act of defiance, demanded change at the ballot box.  After 22 years, Gambians threw off the yoke of oppression and once again embraced democracy and demanded respect for human rights and justice.

Today, justice and the rule of law are important, shared priorities for The Gambia and the United States as you demand closure for those who suffered at the hands of the past regime and seek an efficient justice system to support your nation’s vibrant democracy.  The Gambian judiciary has restored its independence, but it now faces the challenges of delivering comprehensive transitional justice – a process you have already started with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission – while also rebuilding the domestic justice system despite overwhelming demand and limited resources.  We know it is difficult to deliver under such conditions and rebuild the government institutions created to serve and protect the Gambian people, no matter how strong the political will.  And that is why I am here today.

As the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the Department of State, I lead the Department’s efforts to prevent and counter threats to civilian security.  One of the bureaus under my leadership is the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, also known as INL, which is funding the $1.1 million project we are launching here today.  Over the course of the next two years, INL, in tandem with its internationally renowned implementing partner ‒ the International Development Law Organization, or IDLO ‒ will work closely with Gambian justice and judicial stakeholders to build technical infrastructure, develop procedural systems, and enhance the capacity of justice sector officials to ensure that when crimes are committed, citizens can be confident that they can bring cases through the justice system and receive a fair and timely resolution.

To achieve this result, the project will focus on three lines of effort.  First, we will work with justice institutions to train and prepare justice sector officials to prosecute crimes.  We will bring in experts to share experiences and best practices with magistrates, judges, and prosecutors.  These exchanges will emphasize international standards and assist in effectively dealing with criminal cases, especially human rights violations including those of Gender Based Violence.

Second, the project will support enhanced coordination among justice sector institutions.  Commissioners, prosecutors, and judges will have methods and tools to better work together and share information, more quickly moving a case from induction to completion.  As the saying goes: “Justice delayed is justice denied,” and this line of effort aspires to minimize delays.

Lastly, the project will work closely with the Government of The Gambia to increase the public’s awareness of their rights and where to seek legal assistance.  The project will identify the current challenges that keep the Gambian people from accessing legal resources and will create and implement strategies to ensure that all justice seekers are able to receive the information and support they need.

These are ambitious goals, but INL is not alone in supporting justice sector reform.  IDLO will work alongside other U.S. government agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations, civil society, and others committed to partnering with the Gambian government to help build a robust justice system.

The Gambia has demonstrated it intends to be a leader in the struggle for democracy and justice, and the United States is proud to support The Gambia in that struggle.  With that, I share my sincere gratitude to His Lordship Hassan Jallow, the Honorable Dawda A. Jallow, Commissioner Njundu Drammeh, and Ambassador Cromer for their commitment to the success of this program.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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