The NHRC is concerned about the recent spate of violent crimes in the urban and peri-urban areas of the country, including murder, armed robberies, rape, violent burglaries, assaults causing grievous bodily harms and other petty offences. There have also been few rumours of child kidnappings and ritual sacrifices as well which we cannot independently confirm. Thus, communities no longer feel safe, with heightened fear amongst parents about the safety of their children.
The spate of crimes has necessitated the Gambia Police Force to embark on ‘Operation Zero Crime’ to protect lives and property, maintain peace and security and halt the rise in crimes. The patrols which took place between 2nd April to 16th May 2021 led to arrest of 881 suspected offenders, busted criminal gangs and brought some security to communities which have been living in fear. The commission wishes to commend the police high command for this great effort while reminding the personnel in the ‘Operation Zero Crime’ that they have the obligation to respect and protect the fundamental human rights of suspects and these must never be violated or infringed at any time. It is the Courts which have the powers to determine the guilt or otherwise of suspects and impose the appropriate sentence.
The commission is equally perturbed by the images of mob justice circulating on social media that victims subject the suspects of these crimes, literally taking the law into their hands and imposing their own punishments on these suspects. While the commission empathises with the victims and condemns the suffering, and at times the assaults and violence, they are put through, it wishes to state categorically that no one has the right to take the law into their hands or subject another person to humiliating, degrading and dehumanizing treatment no matter the crime or offence committed. Alleged offenders when apprehended should be handed over to the police whose duty it is to prosecute and ensure the law takes its course. Mob justice is an affront to due process and the rule of law and the commission, thus, urges everyone to be law abiding and uphold human rights of all.
Considering that crimes disturb the peace, instils fear and insecurity in the people, restricts people from carrying out their socio-economic activities, scares away investors, tourists and other visitors from the country and violates the rights of people, the commission wishes to make the following recommendations to the State, as the primary duty bearer:
– Equip the Gambia Police Force adequately with the prerequisite technical and material resources to be able to effectively manage crimes in the country. The recent monitoring visit of the commission to police stations across the country revealed lack of vehicles and modern policing equipment in nearly all the stations visited.
– Provide regular in-country and abroad training in crime management to the Police. With criminals getting sophisticated in their operations, law enforcement must be well trained and equipped to effectively confront criminal syndicates and gangs.
– Provide adequate financial support to the Police to carry out its community policing activities. Such financial support should also include suitable incentives and remunerations to law enforcement officers. A lowly paid, demotivated police force may be less committed and passionate about crime prevention and management.
– Accelerate efforts in youth employment. This could entail instituting youth employment schemes, programmes and skills centres in all the regions of the country and working with the National Youth Council and other bodies to ensure success of these efforts.
– Support the Ministry of Health to institute rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for youth victims of illegal drugs and substance.
– Accelerate the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission.