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NHRC Report Says Juveniles Awaiting Trial Outnumbered Those Convicted

Emmanuel Daniel Joof, Chairman National Human Rights Commission and veteran human rights lawyer.

By Landing Ceesay

The National Human Rights Commission [NHRC] 2020 Report on the State of Human Rights in The Gambia has shown that the UNDP Rapid Prison Assessment Report in 2019 indicated that the number of juveniles awaiting trial out-numbered those convicted.

“The Gambia currently has 542 inmates in the three major prisons. Out of this number, 261 are on pre-trial detention or remanded. The 2019 UNDP Rapid Prison Assessment Report (August 2019) indicates that there is overcrowding at the Mile II Remand Wing with 11 cells housing 211 males on remand. The Report further noted that there are more juveniles awaiting trial than those convicted. While these conditions are not new, there [sic] continuous existence indicates inadequate budget for the prisons and detention facilities,” said the NHRC’s State of Human Rights in Gambia Report 2020.

The report stated that the Commission highlighted similar issues during its visits to the prisons and detention facilities in December 2019 and November 2020.

The visited the prisons and detention facilities were Mile II Central Prison, Jeshwang Prison and Juvenile Wing, Janjangbureh Prison, Basse Police Station, Bansang Police Station, Janjangbureh Police Station, Kaur Police Station, Farafenni Police Station, Soma Police Station, Kalaji Police Station, Bakadaji Police Station and Sibanor Police Station.

The report showed that visits to the prisons in the country by NHRC revealed many challenges in the prisons.  

The challenges range from overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation facilities, limited food supply to inmates, prolonged pre-trial remand, lack of vehicles for operational and administrative services, limited access to health services in the prisons; to limited vocational and training facilities for inmates.

“The monitoring of the Police Stations revealed that most Stations have poorly ventilated and tight cells, tight and poorly equipped offices, and sanitary facilities in poor conditions. They also lack designated cells for women and children and designated offices for interviews of victims of sexual and gender-based violence, vehicles for operational and other purposes, and inadequate budgetary allocation for the feeding of detainees,” highlighted the NHRC’s State of Human Rights in Gambia Report 2020.

The state of human rights report 2020 stated that the Commission in March 2020 in a dispatch proffered recommendations to support the monitoring, prevention and control of Covid 19, after the suspension of all court proceedings and urged the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary to investigate the plight of detainees in police cells, remand prisoners and convicted prisoners in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

The report added that said NHRC dispatch drew the attention of the relevant authorities to the implications and ramifications the suspension of courts could have on the rights of remand prisoners who were undergoing trial through the court system.

The NHRC State of Human Rights in The Gambia Report 2020 presented an overview of the state of human rights in the Gambia in 2020- the fundamental human rights and freedoms, which were violated or infringed by both State and non-State actors, and compatibility of domestic legislation to human rights standards and the State’s obligations under ratified human rights instruments.

The report also proffered recommendations that the State, as the primary duty bearer, could implement to better guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms and strengthen the rule of law, good governance, accountability, transparency and due process in the country.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is Gambia’s Human Rights Institution established by an act of parliament [the NHRC Act 2017]. Section 33, (2) (a), and (b) of the act requires the NHRC to submit to the National Assembly a report which shall among others, evaluate the ways in which human rights in country have been observed and the steps it has taken to protect human rights, with a view to draw the attention of the Government and relevant stakeholders to the state of human rights in the Gambia and the appropriate measures need to be implemented for more effective promotion, protection, and realization of human rights.

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