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Sunday, August 9, 2020

‘Ombudsman access to prisons will ensure justice’

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By Omar Bah

Ombudsman Fatou Njie-Jallow has said that her office’s access to the country’s prisons and detention centres will ensure justice is served.
Ombudsman Njie made this recommendation at the Senegambia Hotel while presiding over the opening of a daylong sensitisation workshop for the Gambia Armed forces, SIS, NDLEA, GRA and Ombudsman officials on their functions.

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She said the visits, which will centre on inspections and investigations will make prisons and all detention centres more transparent and draw attention to problems and conditions endured by vulnerable prisoners.
“With this, any unjust, unfair, unsound and illegal conditions will be discovered and recommendations made for corrective measures,” she said.

She said the Ombudsman will ensure that detainees are kept in a conducive environment and report to government its findings and make appropriate recommendations in line with the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and all degrading acts.
“The Ombudsman will also be coming up with statistics and genuine evidences of conditions in prisons, police cells and all places of detention. In addition, the Ombudsman will be receiving genuine complaints from prisoners and people in detention,” she explained.

The Gambia Ombudsman is a member of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association, AOMA, which consist of 40 ombudsman institutions in Africa.
She said, in a bid to protect the human rights of prisoners and people in detention, “the African Ombudsman Association has recently passed a declaration called the ‘Grand Bassam Declaration’.”
“In the declaration, AOMA has tasked all ombudsman institutions in Africa to serve as National Preventive Mechanism, NPM, against torture and all forms of degrading acts in line with the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture),” she explained.

She added: “As such there is the need to ratify the OPCAT in a bid to protect the human rights of prisoners and people in detention. Therefore, the main objective of the workshop is to equip my staff with knowledge required to visit prisons and detention centres.”
She said the training is important, as they cannot afford to make any mistake in their investigations.
“We need to get it right by collecting the right and accurate information. It is important to note that the Ombudsman is not out to find faults; we are out to improve and remedy situations in these institutions in line with Chapter 1V of the 1997 Constitution,” she explained.
This chapter, Ombudsman Njie said, is the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms which is a slogan of the present government.

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