At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on The Gambia held at Geneva on 28 October 2014, the Gambian delegation boasted that “the country had made great efforts in strengthening human rights.” The delegation further stated that “the Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code, Police Act, among others, provided safeguards for persons under investigation and detention. It also noted that persons suspected of having committed offences may be detained for up to 72 hours and thereafter must be brought before a court.”
Well what happens in practice? Sait Matty Jaw of the University of The Gambia has been detained for seven days beyond the 72 hours limit stipulated by the Constitution. Mr Mambury Njie, former minister has been detained for more than 32 days now. Mr Momodou Sowe, former protocol officer at state house has been detained for two years now. Lt Colonel Solo Bojang was re-arrested and has been held for 182 days now in complete disregard for the court and criminal procedure, Mr. Seedy Jaiteh, a former Gamtel staff has been detained for 88 days now. The list goes on and on. Does this show that the government is safeguarding human rights or setting the wrong example by breaking the law?
Such detention without trial is public knowledge as such matters have been well publicised. The NIA operates under the Office of the President. Has this office intervened to safeguard the fundamental rights of the persons mentioned above? The government cannot talk about the Constitution or law safeguarding the rights of persons because it does not practise it.
On the contrary it looks for excuses. This is what the delegation said at the UPR:
“The delegation reiterated the peculiar circumstances of the Republic of The Gambia that must be borne in mind when considering human rights, notably its size which was barely 11,500 square kilometres with a population of less than 1.8 million people.”
What has size got to do with protection of fundamental rights? So does this mean that a country big in size like India or China is capable of safeguarding human rights while a country which is small in size like The Gambia or Cape Verde is not?