NHRC speaks on detention of alleged coup plotters

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By Alagie Manneh

The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission has been talking to The Standard about the prolonged detention without charge of soldiers accused of planning to overthrow the government of The Gambia, demanding due process be followed.

Seven men of the Gambia Armed Forces are being held in connection with the alleged coup plot and in his reaction yesterday, the NHRC chairman Emmanuel Joof said the issue worried them, and that they have contacted the relevant authorities including the GAF to that effect.

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“This was two days before the updated release. I think 48 hours before Mr Jeng [the national security adviser] made a statement, our investigators contacted the armed forces to find out and they had said that they were going to update us because investigations were still ongoing regarding treason charges. So, our investigators will monitor the situation. We had told the authorities, when the alleged coup was announced, that they should follow due process. We even mentioned the constitutional provisions. We also do understand that when it comes to the military, the processes are a bit different, but the fundamental rights and freedom of anybody who is arrested must be followed,” he said.

He said the NHRC is established to protect civil rights and liberties, and where possible, prevent prolonged detentions without charges.

“That is why we visit detention facilities. That’s why even in the case of Sabally, who usually abused the NHRC, we were the first institution to visit him [at the PIU], and also advised that due process be followed [in his case]. A lot of the things that we do, sometimes you don’t even know. That was why when we went to visit Sabally, you didn’t know. When these [alleged coup] people were arrested, we went to find out, and demanded to know their fate. We are now told that a panel has been instituted, and we are still finding out the rationale. But as far as I can tell you, these are things that the NHRC has done since the announcement of the alleged coup. We will not claim their unconditional release. What we will demand is due process. If you are arresting people, you must do so in accordance with law. If you are detaining people, you must do so in accordance with law,” Joof said.

Chairman Joof said NHRC officers have also recently re-visited the GAF to find out more regarding the fate and condition of the detained soldiers.

“Just to assure The Standard that there’s a lot of things we do that you don’t know. It is because we have an advisory role to the government, and we write to and speak to the government directly,” he stated.