Gambia: NHRC Investigate Death of Serrekunda Market Vendor

The Gambia Human Rights Commission has commenced investigation on the death of a Serrekunda Market vendor who died in July.

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Emmanuel Daniel Joof, on Tuesday said: "We are currently investigating the death of Ousman Darboe who was allegedly tortured by personnel of the Anti-Crime Unit of The Gambia Police Force which sparked up riot in the Greater Banjul Area on the 24th of July.

"We are engaging discussion with the police and family members."

Darboe's death resulted in a mass demonstration on the 24th July 2019 in which a police station was set on fire. Demonstrators alleged that Darboe died as a result of the torture meted out on him by the police while he was under detention at the Anti-Crime Unit's office in Bijilo. Following the riot, the police arrested 37 youths and charged them with 8 criminal counts including arson, unlawful assembly and rioters demolishing building.

The Chairman of the NHRC made this statement during a three days leadership orientation for Commissioners and staff of the NHRC organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance at a local hotel in Senegambia.

"The three-day event is geared to support effective implementation of the NHRC programs considering the commission recent establishment and the ongoing governance and institutional reform within the framework of priority given by the national development plan of the country in respect for human rights," Joof said.

Commissioner Joof said since the commissioners of the NHRC were sworn-in in June 2019, they have embarked on a series of activities which include the development of a work plan and complainant's form.

Joof said in June, the NHRC has issued statements condemning speeches made by some government officials during a rally in Brikama in which certain statements which were considered to be threatening, hostile and intimidating towards peaceful demonstration were uttered.

"We will very soon embark on the preparation of our five years strategic plan," he said.

Mr. Hussein Thomasi, a representative of the Ministry of Justice, said resolution 48 134 of the United Nation General Assembly on National Institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, was adapted by the United Nations on the 20th of December 1993 together with a document that contains the principles relating to the status of national institutions known today as the Parish principles.

"The resolution urges member states to establish independent national human rights institutions with the mandate to promote and protect human rights in their respective states," he said.

He said strong human rights commissions are a solid pillar for the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights and democracy.

"National human rights commissions hold government accountable to the people, they govern as well as improve the human rights situation in any given country," he said.

Mr. Thomasi said they are of the view that the commission has the potential to profoundly bring about change in the human rights landscape of this country.

"There are now in place a draft information bill as well as a draft media services bill to provide appropriate and transparent process for the operation of media houses, when enacted by the National Assembly," he noted.

Mr. Maurice Engueleguele a Senior Program Officer from the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), said respect for human rights and rule of law are the key pillars of sustainable democracy and resilience in institutional reform policies.

"The demands for accountability and respect for human rights by Gambian citizens are more and higher," he said.

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