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NHRC recommends prisoners given right to vote

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By Omar Bah

In its state of human rights report 2023, the National Human Rights Commission has recommended that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) provide legal frameworks that would give prisoners the right to vote.

The NHRC has previously raised concerns that prisoners have long been disenfranchised despite the constitution granting them voting rights while serving sentences.

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“The IEC should initiate law reform to enable Diaspora Gambians, persons in detention, and prisoners to vote during elections,” the NHRC added.

Corruption

According to the NHRC, government should take all necessary steps to enforce and implement the Anti-Corruption Act 2023, including the expeditious establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission. It added that the government should take necessary steps to raise awareness about corruption and the existence of the Act to prevent and punish practices.

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“Implement the recommendations of the audit reports of the National Audit Office regarding mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds,” it added.

Murder cases

The NHRC also recommended that the government thoroughly investigate all alleged murders and bring perpetrators to account.

“Government should also provide the Gambia Police Force with the necessary resources, equipment, and capacity to effectively investigate and handle murder cases and other arbitrary deprivations of life. Follow due process in the arrest and detention of individuals suspected of a crime. Refrain from committing acts of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment against individuals in police custody,” the commission recommended.

It also recommended that police be trained on arrest and detention procedures and the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2023.

The NHRC also recommended that government respect, honor, and enforce the decisions, judgments, and rulings of the courts, expedite the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s Office and the hybrid court, and invest adequate resources in their work.

“The government should refrain from stifling freedom of speech, including that of the media. Ensure media and freedom of expression provisions contained within the Constitution comply with international standards, as outlined under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” it added.

The NHRC also recommended that the government amends Section 5 of the Public Order Act and replace the issuance of permits with notification.

It further recommended that the IEC urgently considers holding presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections on the same day to prevent dwindling voter turnout as observed following the 2021 presidential election.

“The government should take the necessary steps to domesticate the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances ratified in 2018. The National Assembly and the Ministry of Justice should expedite the passing of the Criminal Offences Bill and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that witchcraft and hate speech are criminalised in the Bill before it is passed,” it noted.

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