Allegations of police engaging in illegality by detaining a journalist over a civil matter and maltreating a teacher and students in a school must be investigated by the competent national authorities.
But first, the victims must formally lodge complaints and are encouraged to do so. Indeed, all fair-minded persons must be outraged by the reported police misbehavior.
Thus we add our voice in condemning the police who reportedly manhandled a teacher and students, as complained of by the Never Again Network and the GTU.
We also condemn the reported illegal detention of our colleague, the publisher of the Trumpet Newspaper Fabakary Ceesay, on what we understand to be a purely civil matter.
We believe that such behavior by members of our police force is unacceptable!
In the case of the Never Again Network, apart from the open letter to the IGP to publicly name and shame the police, the complainant must take additional concrete steps.
Such as submitting a complaint to the complaints unit of the police force, a complaint to the Ministry of Justice, to the National Human Right Commission, and taking legal action against the police.
Indeed, it’s time we develop the habit in Gambia of taking our grievances against state excesses to the courts for redress.
Ditto the journalist and all aggrieved persons who must also copy their letters of complaint to local and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
You see, it is necessary that these reported infractions by the police be meticulously documented and should go into the records to facilitate remedial action now and in the future.
And it is important that the national authorities beware that violations of human rights in any form will be captured in the international reports issued from time to time and that there are national reputation costs.
Our donor partners, whether the UN System under its various human rights monitoring and protection mechanisms or the EU under multilateral agreements such as the Cotonou Agreements, should remind state parties that receiving their aid is conditional on fulfilling their obligations to uphold good governance.
This is necessary for our national authorities to be seen to take action and to make the police understand that they cannot be a law unto themselves and that Gambian police officers cannot continue to misbehave with impunity.
After all, we expected that in the new dispensation, and after all the funds on workshops sponsored by our development partners through the NGOs and various civil society organizations, to teach the police culture of respect for human rights issues, their behavior will change.
However, it is clear from frequent reports of police brutality against civilians that old habits die hard and that the Jammeh-era poor mentality and comportment of the Gambian police remain intact.
The national authorities must be reminded that the Gambian state is a party to international instruments to safeguard good governance and must ensure that state institutions such as the police are accountable for human rights abuses.
In any case, the development partners must now admit that the funding being given to the ongoing transitional justice processes, including the security sector reform, is yet to yield meaningful results – see the stalled process to adopt a new constitution and reports which show that the commissions of inquiry such as the Janneh Commission and TRRC have not changed mindsets in The Gambia – again our assertion that old habits die hard.
Never mind that their training includes being taught to be courteous, helpful, kind, and so on; and, despite all the talk of building a harmonious relationship between the police and civilians, it is evident that the police never hesitate to treat civilians with hostility.
We are always reminded by such actions of an ingrained negative attitude towards civilians; that the tendency of the police to show force or exercise raw power is always there.
This clearly shows a mindset problem – a continuing mindset problem – and this definitely needs to be addressed.
Thus the need to revisit the education and training curricula of the police and other security services, as highlighted in the TRRC public hearings.
But, of course, we also know that the police, whether in Gambia or elsewhere in our immediate neighborhood and even beyond, tend to abuse their power and break the law.
Now, it is accepted by all that we have roles to play for the harmonious development of society.
Farmers’ assigned role is to work to feed us; teachers teach us; doctors provide health care; the police are employed to maintain law and order, protect life and property, and so on.
Along with the courts, the police are the custodians of the rule of law in every country.
And, so if there are complaints of the police breaking the law, this must be looked into, and when and where this is established to be the case, the police officer(s) must be brought to the book!