Human Rights Committee Demands Review of Detained Prisoners’ Cases

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Assembly Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters has demanded the review of cases involving detained prisoners and those under remanded as well.

The committee made this recommendation in a report after they visited detention centers in the country.

“Remand prisoners, detained for up to one year, should have their cases reviewed. Similarly, a prisoner who is remanded for more than fourteen years should have his/her case reviewed and concluded within six months,” the assembly committee admonishes.

The main objective of the Committee’s visit was to enhance the understanding of National Assembly Members with regards to the conditions of detention facilities, sustenance (food and water), hygiene, ventilation, the general environment and health facilities.

It also availed them the opportunity to obtain firsthand information about the population around the detention facilities and the number of persons per cell, space and capacity of cells, category of inmates/detainees (women, children and persons living with disabilities).

Lawmakers also obtained concrete and credible information on the reason for detention, period of detention, Covid-19 preventive measures taken in prisons and major detention centers, and the government’s approach to achieving efficiency across the prisons and detention centers.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Member for Wuli East, on Monday, June 19, tabled the said report before the lawmakers for scrutiny and adoption.

Tabling the report, he told the assembly that the Committee “recommended for remand prisoners, detained for up to one year, to have their cases reviewed. Similarly, a prisoner who is remanded for more than fourteen years should have his/her case reviewed and concluded within six months.”

He said during the visit, the Committee observed several anomalies with regards to the abhorrent conditions of the facilities.

“Most of the Police Stations visited had cells that were inhabitable due to poor ventilation, unhygienic and broken water pipes. Poor ventilation was particularly noted in most of the stations, especially in Farafenni and Basse Police Stations. However, there were few facilities with improved holding cells such as Kaur and Bansang Police Stations,” he said.

Touray further reported the absence of ‘prisoner diets’ in most of the facilities visited. In these facilities, prison officers contribute to cater for themselves and the feeding of the detainees.

He added that violations of prisoners’ access to justice exist in some centres, and that in Janjanbureh and Mile II Prisons, the Committee heard from inmates who complained about going to courts for over six years without verdict.

He stressed that the committee observed small-sized detention centres and cells, poor and limited sanitary facilities for detainees and the officers, and no drainage system within the station, of which during the rainy season, it is difficult to access certain offices within the premises.

The Wuli East NAM further reported that the committee noted that Amdalai Police Station has detention cells, including one for juveniles, which is in the middle of a business center, which might be a threat to the security personnel. He went on to advize for joint-border patrol to be strengthened.

He said, “At the Kaur Police Station, the committee observed that the station has limited but well-ventilated detention facilities with no designated juvenile detention cells. Crimes involving juveniles are reportedly not prevalent. Thus, such cases are treated in a separate room, instead of detaining them in cells.”

He stated that Njau Police Station is a small station with dilapidated facilities, and all juvenile cases reported there are referred to Kaur Police station as there are no child welfare officers.

On Janjanbureh Prisons, he said: “The station has 71 inmates: 41 convicts and 30 on remand. There is a marked improvement on human rights compliance such as proper ventilation and living rooms for inmates.”

However, he said the convicts and remand inmates are all crammed in the same rooms and cells, as some remand inmates have been going to court for more than five years without any judgement, saying “Some inmates on remand are going to court for more than five years without any judgement.”

Visiting Sare Ngai Police Station, he stated that presently, there exists one small detention cell, which is poorly ventilated. He added that juvenile detainees, who are normally referred to the Basse Station, are detained in the same cell with adult detainees.

He highlighted that some of the challenges confronting the visited centres include but not limited to poor accommodation for officers, poor condition of sanitary facilities, mobility and fuel constraints to transport inmates to court.

He added, “The centers are also challenged with dilapidated structures, including a leaking roof that needs massive renovation, absence of capacity building for officers, especially on basic human rights issues and limited personnel.”

The Legislative Human Rights Committee recommended for adequate resources, space and ventilation facilities to be provided to stations especially those at the borders as well as provide motor-vehicle for all the stations visited.

“All stations should be provided with PIU back-up security, especially those around the borders. In the exercise of the President’s Prerogative of Mercy, the Director of Prisons, and the Commissioners of the three major prisons should be included in the advisory panel,” the committee recommended.

After the debate on the report, the legislature subsequently adopted the report of the Human Rights Committee.

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