The West African nation of The Gambia has created a human rights unit at its homeland security department to watch and probe reports of misconduct and human rights violation by law enforcement officials.
“I have created a Human Rights Unit attached to the Office of the Minister, to monitor, investigate and recommend for action matters dealing with police misconduct, human rights violations and public complaints against law enforcement,” Minister for Interior, Mai Ahmad Fatty said.
The Gambia’s police continue to be implicated in civil and human rights violations after decades of autocratic rule by the former despot, Yahya Jammeh.
The police are accused by activists of harassment, torture and prolonged detention of citizens even after Jammeh was defeated in the polls and the new president, Adama Barrow took over.
Gambian authorities are on a spate of arrest, raising eyebrows among activists, who demanded the release of a journalist and a whistleblower, who uncovered nepotism and corruption in the state intelligence agency.
“I do not deal with technical matters such as arrests, detention and police prosecution. Although I take full responsibility of the satellite institutions under my Ministry, it would constitute a misconception of the role of a Security Minister to include the power of arrest, detention, and prosecution,” said Fatty.
“It would be the wrong assumption to conclude that the Minister of Interior would be aware of every arrest or detention situation in the country. The Ministry of Interior is one of the busiest in government and that Minister should not interfere in such matters.”
Journalist Baboucarr Sey and Legal Advisor Baboucarr Badjie have been released on bail and regularly reporting to the police as investigations continue into their matter.
Activists say the conduct of the police have not changed and continue to act with impunity. A political party, the UDP has accused the police of bias in a Tallinding, a township outside the capital, Banjul.
Gambia is mainland Africa’s smallest country and it is setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to probe human rights abuses committed by Jammeh’s regime.