By Assan Sallah.
The Inspector General of Police and the country’s Attorney General have been sued by a man for being illegally detained by the police, stretching beyond the constitutional limits.
Sylvanus Johnson, a resident of Dobson Street in Banjul said he was arrested and detained for 15 days without any charges or appearing before a court.
The Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General are now being sued by Johnson, through his lawyer, for unlawful detention and violation of his right to personal liberty . Mr. Johnson was apparently arrested and detained at the Police Headquarters in Banjul from April 4 to 19, 2020.
According to a court affidavit, the police violated Mr. Johnson’s right to personal liberty, and freedom, which is guaranteed by the country’s 1997 Constitution.
Court documents filed on behalf of Sylvanus Johnson on December 18, 2020 against the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General are also asking for compensation for the violations.
Such rights violations were rampant under the previous regime of the former President Yahya Jammeh. Since Jammeh’s ouster, democratic reforms have been introduced in the country, most notably the security service reform.
Gambians believe that prolonged detentions that constitute rights violations are a thing of the past, but there have been reported cases of people being detained without heading to court within the constitutionally specified time. The Gambia’s constitution does not allow a person to be detained longer than 72 hours without being charged and brought before a judge.
According to the country’s laws, where there is reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or being about to commit a criminal offence and “who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a Court and, in any event, within seventy two hours.”
The Gambia is a signatory to human rights instruments that guarantee that no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.
Rights organizations say the human rights climate in The Gambia improved dramatically as the current president, Adama Barrow, and his government took steps to reverse former President Yahya Jammeh’s legacy of authoritarian and abusive rule in which the security services were complicit.
According to Human Rights Watch, The Gambia’s government underscored the need for comprehensive security sector reform, describing security institutions as polluted because of their ties abuses and rights violations, especially arbitrary detention, and torture.