By Madi Jobarteh
It is less than three years when we ended a Dictatorship notorious for violations without accountability hence impunity. For 22 years we had a regime in which the law enforcement and justice delivery institutions were used to abusing the rule of law by dumping Gambians in prison unjustly and illegally for which many came out scathed for life.
Three years on, today, we have 37 Gambians and non-Gambians similarly forced into prison by yet again the same law enforcement and justice delivery institutions as if we are still under Dictatorship. The Gambian Judiciary knows full well that its various courts have legal limitations as to what they can decide or not. Yet Kanifing Magistrates Court deliberately decided to send 37 youths to prison when that court knows it has no such powers to do so.
Similarly, the Gambia Police Force knows which court can decided which case. Knowing that magistrates’ court cannot decide cases that carry life imprisonment or death penalty still the Inspector General of Police decided to take such a case before that court in total disregard of the rule of law. This clearly shows that the police and the courts have decided to connive to kill the fundamental rights of Gambians as usual. Yet the Gambian Nation stands still, silent and calm!
Furthermore, the Gambia Prisons Services know that boys and men placed in remand cannot and must not be automatically shaven. Section 66 of the Prisons Act states that,
“All male prisoners on remand or awaiting trial who usually shave and are received shaven shall be shaved both while under detention and on the day of their appearance in court.”
Based on this provision, we now ask why did Mile 2 prison authorities shave Killa Ace by cutting his dreadlocks? It is clear that Killa Ace does not ‘usually shave’ his hair and he was not ‘received shaven’ yet the authorities at Mile 2 blatantly went ahead to shave the man. Why? This is nothing other than sheer abuse of power and direct violation of the fundamental rights and dignity of Killa Ace.
By violating the rights and dignity of one citizen it means the Police, Courts and Prison institutions of the Gambia have violated the dignity and sovereignty of all Gambians. How long shall Gambians accept elected and appointed public officials to continue to behave like Masters and Lords over the very citizens who gave these officials their authority and legitimacy to serve in public institutions?
It is such a shame that a supposedly democratic government like this Government of Adama Barrow that succeeds a tyrannical regime like that of Yaya Jammeh would leave intact tyrannical practices to remain in a supposedly democratic society. This case reflects that indeed the Barrow Government is neither interested nor committed to transforming the Gambia from Dictatorship to Democracy. Rather the Barrow Government poses a clear and present danger to Gambian Citizens and the Gambian Republic.
This is attested to by the fact that since this case erupted there is no one single official or institution within the entire State that attempted, even slightly to correct the anomalies and malpractices that have been unfolding so far. From the President to the Chief Justice to the Minster of Justice to the IGP and the Director General of Prisons each and every one of these elected and appointed public officials blatantly washed their hands off as they sit by to watch violations and impunity take root in our country yet again.
Nothing is more dangerous than to have a Government led by elected and appointed officials who refuse to take responsibility and initiative to make things right but to sit by and allow abuse to flourish. By their failure to ensure that the rule of law is followed by the Police, the Courts and the Prisons this Government therefore poses a direct threat to the lives and rights of Gambians. Will our citizens allow this misconduct at the highest level to continue?
Let Gambians know that today 37 human beings are lying in horrible conditions at Mile 2 for no reason other than our complacency, indifference and silence. No one is saying that the police and the courts must not apprehend and prosecute criminals of any kind. Indeed, the police and the courts must ensure that the law is enforced. But in enforcing the law we must insist that the police and the courts also uphold and follow the rule of law.
If we allow the police and the courts to disregard the rule of law for one citizen rest assured all other citizens are also at risk sooner or later. We had seen this during the Jammeh Tyranny how even Ministers, Secretary Generals, police and military generals were all sent to prison without any due process simply because we allowed the culture of disregard of the rule of law to prevail. Are we repeating the same today? Time will tell.
For the Gambia Our Homeland