By: Kebba AF Touray
The Human Rights Committee of the National Assembly has recommended for the Gambia Police Force (GPF) to desist from inflicting any inhumane and degrading treatment on detainees with immediate effect.
This recommendation was made following the committee’s phase 1 oversight visit to some major detention Centres within the Kanifing Municipal Council and the West Coast Region.
As indicated in the report the visit was aimed to enhance the understanding of lawmakers with issues such as the conditions of the detention facilities including the provision of services, food and water, number of persons per cell in the country during the phase 1 of the visit.
The visit was also intended to know the population within the detention facilities, category of inmates and detainees, justification of detention, period of detention, COVID-19 Preventive measures, and government’s approach to achieving efficiency across the prison estate and access to education, training and other purposeful activities.
Tabling the report before the legislature, Hon. Suwaibou Touray, member for Wuli East Constituency, reported to the assembly that the visit was in the context of ensuring the respect for the fundamental human rights of the prisoners and detainees, bearing in mind the historical realities of the Gambia’s prison system.
He said that during the visit at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), they observed that walls of the rooms had been covered up by red paint and still had remains of what seemed to be blood stains and chain hooks.
“The committee members voiced their concerns, noting that the modification was undue and perhaps amounted to interference of some sort. At the kitchen of the NIA, the committee observed that the inmates cook with facilitation from officers. The medical centre however serves merely as a provision for basic medical care and doesn’t have the capacity to deal with compound medical conditions,” he said.
Dwelling on the Juvenile Wing at the Jeshwang Prisons, the committee observed that the ventilation in the cells needed improvement as the rooms were poorly ventilated, and the prevalence of bed bugs and mosquitoes was a concern for the juveniles that were in custody.
At the Adult Wing of the Jeshwang Prisons, he said the committee observed that the space designated for the administration was quite limited.
“At the Kairaba Police Station, with regard to the welfare of the detainees, the committee was informed about an appropriation of five D5.00 for dinner per detainee. The committee also observed that there were several mattresses sacked beside the cell and upon inquiry about the purpose of the said mattresses, it emerged that they were utilised by officers engaged in protest management to contain the “3 years Jotna” protestors,” he told the assembly.
Hon. Touray further told the assembly that during their visit to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Director General raised concern to the committee that the agency is unarmed contrary to standard global practice, and the committee was further informed by the DG that the contraband that the agency is tasked to combat is one that is highly lucrative for perpetrators.
“During our visit to the Bundung Police Station, the Commissioner for Police for Kanifing East acknowledged the constraints regarding sanitation as the detainees are responsible for the cleanliness of the cells. The Commissioner also raised budgetary constraints of the police, which he said hampers the timely payment of service providers such as the catering services, and the allocation remains D5 per detainee, which is highly insufficient,” he reported.
The recommendation made by the Human Rights Committee at the conclusion of its oversight visit to major detention centers are as thus;
The ventilation of police stations be improved to ensure air circulation and improved visibility;
The IGP and Minister of Interior take responsibility of ensuring police cells are clean and hygienic at all times;
Mosquito nets be placed on the ventilation holes of every detention facility in the Gambia to reduce the influx of mosquitoes;
The allocation of D5 to police detainees be progressively reviewed with immediate effect;
The police force, develop and improve the welfare of children and women under detention;
The police force, desist from inflicting any inhumane and degrading treatment on detainees with immediate effect;
The Gambia Prison Service develops a temporary measure for curbing the overcrowding at the remand wing pending the completion of the new prison halls;
The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Finance create a budget line for the prison’s medical and emergency services;
Reading and other educational materials be provided to the Juvenile Wing;
The Juvenile Wing and prisons be fumigated immediately in order to mitigate the infestation of bed bugs;
Moving forward the construction of police cells take into consideration, in addition to improvement of space, making provision for separate cells for women and children;
The transport of prisoners to court houses be progressively reviewed, in a view to improve mobility;
The Minister for Basic and Secondary Education ensures the operation of juvenile instruction center; and
The government tabled a bill to reflect the reforms necessary in the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), including rebranding of the institution as the State Intelligence Service (SIS), divesting detention power and limitation of its mandate to intelligence gathering.
Some of the facilities visited by the committee include but not limited to PIU, Police Anti-Crime Unit, Banjulinding, Bakau, Kololi, Kotu, Tallinding, Serrekunda, Brusubi, Tanji, Tujereng and Gunjur Police Stations respectively.