GAMBIA: Access to justice for children

This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.

Gambia has ratified the CRC, but the Convention does not take precedence over national law as it has not been fully incorporated into the national legal system and it is therefore also not directly applicable in the national courts. The legal system of Gambia is based on common law, but customary practices and Sharia law are also applicable. The courts have broad powers to hear legal challenges by children and complaints can also be lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman, but many challenges to children accessing justice in Gambia still exist. Young children require representation in front of the courts, but the law is unclear as to the age at which a child may bring a case on his or her own behalf. Legal aid is available to children bringing claims, but there are concerns about the limited use of legal aid due to the lack of resources. Rules on giving evidence are relaxed in proceedings involving children and testimony can be given not under oath if this is not understood. All litigants have a constitutional right to appeal within thirty days of judgment, but the laws do not allow for challenges by NGOs or groups. As only three equipped Children’s Court are presently in operation, cases take a considerable amount of time to be resolved. After national remedies have been exhausted, complaints can be lodged with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.

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