It is very common to see on social media about incidents of people trying to take the law into their own hands and trying to dispense justice on individuals accused of one crime or the other. This is what is referred to as mob justice. It is illegal and has the potential of causing a lot of harm to society. The rule of law requires that when a person is accused of committing a crime, he or she should be handed over to the police for appropriate action.
Citizens are supposed to report cases of that nature to the police and help give information where necessary but should never try to take the law into their hands. In fact, in some cases there can be what is referred to as citizens’ arrest.
However, in that case citizens must make sure that they never attempt to beat up a suspect. The truth is that even police officers – who are mandated to enforce the law – are not allowed by law to beat up suspects or treat them inhumanely. The law in this country presumes a suspect innocent until he or she is proven guilty by a competent court of law. The suspect must never be treated in any way that presumes that they are guilty. That is why they are referred to as suspects and when speaking or writing about them the word alleged is used. That is to ensure that no one is wrongly treated. Recently, a man was stripped naked and beaten severely for allegedly raping a twelve year old girl. At another time, a Sierra Leonean man was stripped and maltreated for dressing like a woman. There are many instances of this nature in The Gambia and it seems the public needs to be enlightened on this point before someone will lose their life at the hands of overenthusiastic vigilantes. The law takes into account the human being’s proclivity to make mistakes. So the margin of error should always be kept in view lest a citizen is deprived of his/her right; or, even his/her life. There is a competent authority to look into all allegations and reach a degree of certainty to apply the appropriate punishment. It is true that it is tempting to dispense justice when one sees an individual who allegedly commits certain crimes but one should be careful not to commit a crime oneself by exercising powers that do not belong to one. That is jungle justice which is inimical to democracy and development.