I receive with great caution and gross dissatisfaction the news of the interdiction and the opening of investigation on allegations of corruption and torture by the Commander of the Anti-Crime Unit Gorgi Mboob on 28th July 2020. While I welcome this long overdue decision by the Inspector General of Police, I wish to express dissatisfaction that indeed the Anti-Crime Unit itself should have been closed down, its officers suspended and the Unit placed under thorough investigation.
Furthermore, the Inspector General of Police Mamour Jobe as well as the Minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko should also have been dismissed forthwith for their failed leadership in stemming the culture of corruption and abuse within the law enforcement agency, and ensure transparency and accountability in the police. Both leaders have failed to create the necessary reforms to bring about system change for a decent working environment for our women and men in uniform to serve citizens with professionalism, decorum and efficiency.
For that matter, here are my issues and concerns regarding the interdiction of Gorgi Mboob and the way forward:
1. The members of the panel and its terms of reference must be published for the information of the public to ensure transparency and accountability;
2. The independence of the panel must be guaranteed in order to protect the integrity and credibility of the investigation;
3. The findings of the panel must be made public and its recommendations must be implemented in full.
4. The investigation of Gorgi Mboob cannot exclude the overall investigation of the Anti-Crime Unit itself simply because he is the head of the Unit. The members of the Unit as well as their resources, methods, tools and practices must be put under scrutiny;
5. The Anti-Crime Unit must be closed down and all of its officers suspended pending the conclusion of investigations and those found wanting must face accountability.
6. The fight against crime must be strengthened by further empowering all other police stations, police units and police officers across the country.
The Anti Crime Unit must be disbanded even if another unit with the same mandate would be established. That new unit must be set up in a transparent manner with clear terms of reference and constituted with officers who are found to be not involved in acts of torture, corruption and other forms of abuse.
The new unit must be professional and sensitized on women’s rights, child rights and rights of persons with disabilities and human rights in general. The new unit must be introduced to the United Nations human rights standards for law enforcement. They must also be sensitized, on the one hand, about the fundamental rights and freedoms of Gambians as enshrined in the Constitution, and on the other hand, the power and obligations of the police as per Section 19 of the Constitution and also as enshrined in the Police Act and the Criminal Code and other laws of the Gambia.
Furthermore, such new unit like all other police units, stations and officers, must be provided with continuous and refresher training on new skills, methods and tools for the prevention and detection of crime and handling of suspects among others. Given that there is a National Human Rights Commission, the Gambia Police Force must use every opportunity to seek the support of the Commission in training their officers to understand and uphold human rights standards.
As a democratic republic, no public officer or public institution must violate one right of one citizen at anytime. Hence if there is any such officer or institution which has been found to violate rights then such officer and institution must face immediate accountability. Therefore, those who claim that ACU should not be disbanded rather is it enough to just remove the bad elements, I say to such suggestion that it is cosmetic, halfhearted and superficial. To list a number of successes of the ACU and therefore claim it is good is to misunderstand the very essence of the police and to devalue human rights.
With or without ACU, the Gambia Police Force is a statutory body mandated to protect the lives, liberty and property of Gambians by enforcing the law. Hence the very nature of the police is not to violate but to protect. While the IGP can create any structure to facilitate this mandate where such structure has become overwhelmed with abuse and corruption, it is not enough to weed out the bad elements and let the structure remain. Rather the entire unit needs to be disbanded to give way to a new order founded on new rules, methods and tools. Old habits die hard hence by merely weeding out bad elements the tendency for abuse to emerge again is high.
Hence it is necessary to disband the ACU – an act which will further inform a new unit, if formed that they are also not dispensable but they could be disbanded if they fall below standard. In this way, one also sends a clear message to all other police officers and other units that abuse and corruption will not be tolerated. This is how system change takes place.