By Aisha Tamba
Senior law enforcement officers were on Tuesday trained on Covid-19 prevention measures, public order management and human rights obligations to increase knowledge of security personnel in human rights norms and obligations during the state of emergencies.
The one-day training was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held at the UN House in Bakau.
In partnership with the WHO, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of National Security (Gambia Government).
UNDP, Security Sector Reform Specialist, Baboucarr Sowe, explained that the purpose of the training is to ensure that security personnel deployed to implement the Government’s COVID-19 measures have essential knowledge on health and security protection including on issues of children and gender, as well as human rights norms and obligations during the COVID-19 state of the emergency period in The Gambia.
“Currently, it is the Gambia Police Force that is at the forefront of the implementation of the plan and it is acutely overwhelmed. This training course has been designed to help reinforce the Police and widen the scope of trained and deployed security personnel. It is pertinent the Gambia security sector is prepared to rapidly, effectively and properly implement the Government’s COVID-19 Plan. Timing for this training is imminent as the crisis is expected to worsen in the country over the weeks and the Government is expected to growingly rely on security personnel to enforce its COVID-19 Plan.”
Mr Sowe added that pandemics are fertile breeding grounds for governmental overreach. International law allows emergency measures in response to significant threats; however, states must reach the threshold of legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality for each measure taken. Some rights are non-derogable even during the State of Emergency, including the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and the use of arbitrary detention.
“The several States across the globe have declared state of emergencies in response to COVID 19, however, reports of security personnel violating citizens have surfaced. The Gambia has also declared certain measures in a bid to contain the epidemic. Security personnel will be monitoring adherence to these measures, ” he said.
Momodou Gassama from the WHO, highlighted that the training is to share knowledge, skills and experiences with the security officers. “It is important to share with the security personnel the realities of Covid-19 and how to work together to get rid of this virus with the implemented measures that the government have put in place, ” noted.
Amadu Njie, cadet fire officer, deputy PRO GFRS, said that one of the main challenges faced by the security frontline workers is the disbelief by the society that the pandemic exists in the country. “We find it very difficult that people adhere to social distancing roles mandated by the government, and that is very important. Enforcing social distancing is really a big challenge because many people don’t believe that Covid-19 really exists in this country, ” he lamented.
Mansour Jobe, for the National Human Rights Commission, The Gambia, emphasised the importance to respect the effective implementation of human rights during the State of emergency.