The unedifying spectacle of the Global Home of Medical Missions case

The unedifying spectacle of the Global Home of Medical Missions case

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The case involving the police and Global Home of Medical Missions is a case of concern for all concerned about the rule of law and adherence to proper judicial processes in The Gambia. The way the authorities are handling the case, notably the defiance of court orders and the repeated arrest and detention of Global Home of Medical Missions employees Neneh Freda Gomez and Lamin Sey, resembles Jammeh’s Gambia and not the New Gambia that was birthed in January 2017.

For three days now the two have been detained at a police station after being arrested while visiting a property which the court said rightfully belongs to a group they work for.

Ms Gomez as the local head of Global Home of Medical Missions went to court to claim ownership of the land used by the Anti-Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force. The court ruled that the Global Home of Medical Missions is the rightful owner of the land. Anti-Crime Unit continued to use the place until recently when the unit was transferred to Yundum. Ms Gomez and team then moved to take the land but were confronted with a police guard who denied them access and even though they were accompanied by a staff from the Sheriff’s Division of the High Court who was there to enforce the court ruling.

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When they attempted to hold a press conference at the place, the police broke it up, arrested them and subsequently prosecuted them for trespassing with the Ministry of Justice saying the land is the subject of other litigations. The ministry did not say who are those litigants.

Last week a court ruled that the arrest and detention of Ms Gomez and Sey was illegal and even ordered compensation to be paid to them. However, when they attempted to go back to the land on Friday, they were again arrested and are still in detention reportedly charged with trespass.

On Saturday, a disturbing picture of Ms Gomez emerged on the social media showing her struggling to sleep under the veranda of a police station causing alarm and calls by human rights activists and other individuals for her immediate release. The rights defenders are questioning the apparent refusal of the police to respect the decision of the courts of the land. They also want to know if there are other litigations over the land, why they were not made public and processed in courts. In the absence of answers to these questions, the feeling is that the rights of Ms Gomez and Mr Sey are being violated.

We call on the authorities to respect the court’s decision and resolve the matter without any further injury to the rights of the plaintiffs. The fundamental pillar of democracy is the rule of law which is interpreted by the courts whose verdict must be respected by all.

If as it is reported the government wants the land for some other use, then there must be a way to do this in a manner that would be satisfactory to all parties and in accordance with the law.