Barrister Sarjo Barrow, USA.
By Sarjo Barrow
Again, we saw headlines that Bora of Kerr Fatou is invited for questioning by the Kairaba Police in connection with the statement he made on his show. While I did not have the opportunity to listen to the statement yet, the consensus is that the opinion he expressed, although not popular, is not criminal, or even when taken out of context, it won’t incite public disorder.
Indeed policing is essential and we need a trained and professional police service in our democratic dispensation. Moreover, the aftermath of the dictatorship requires a strong bond between the community and the police. Such is essential in their efforts to protect and service the community with integrity and professionalism. The Army, which is heavily attributed to human rights abuse during the dictatorship, has done a great job in reforming its institution to win public confidence.
Since the police have consistently called citizens for questioning whenever the opinions expressed are critical of the government, it is time for citizens to know that the tacit understanding of good faith does not hold when it comes to the IGP and his house.
Considering the Gambia Bar abdicate its function in protecting or enhancing constitutional and due process, common sense dictates that the citizens heed the following:
First, whenever the IGP, through his representative, calls you for just a “questioning,” asked the officer’s name, badge number, and phone and respectfully state that your lawyer would contact them.
Second, officers for a variety of reasons may ask you into police stations for a talk or “to assist with investigations,” and you are “free to leave at any time” and that “there’s nothing to worry about.” Again, respectfully decline.
Although the law gives police the authority to make arrests, to make an arrest in these circumstances (i.e. after an alleged crime has been committed), they must have reasonable grounds to believe the person was involved in the crime. If the officer does not have that suspicion, their only option is to invite you in for a casual conversation. Because of our shared experiences with Gambia police, do not volunteer to go there or only do so after consulting with a lawyer.
Last, if the officer is not happy with your decision to exercise your right and insists that you must come, ask if you’re under arrest. If not, you do not have to honor it. If you are, remind the police you want a lawyer. Also, it is important to comply if they state you’re under arrest even if you believe such is not warranted. Let the court ferret that out since there is hope for their independence since 2017.
In conclusion, the National Assembly’s pertinent committee can exercise its oversight functions here without jeopardizing any potential invistugstuin to make sure it’s kosher. Also, AG should ask for funds, if necessary, to train and continue to hold training for law enforcement regarding arrest/search & seizures & fundamental rights under the constitution. The Gambia National Assembly The Gambia Police Force