The United Nations has strongly recommended the immediate closure of an inhumane state penitentiary outside The Gambia’s capital.
UN officials on a visit to the West African nation observed the extremely poor conditions of detention of the prisoners and called on the government of President Adama Barrow to have the Mile 2 Prisons shutdown.
“Conditions are especially deplorable in the high security and remand wings, where some prisoners have been reportedly held for up to seven years in pre-trial detention,” said the UN.
A serious problem of overcrowding in the remand wing of the prison have been reported.
Human rights activist has been concerned about the state of prisoners in the facility, especially for those with mental disabilities.
UN officials found that many detainees in the remand wing have been held for a long time, including foreigners without their family being informed of the detention.
Gambia has for long had a backlog of cases, mostly affecting remanded detainees. The “unacceptable” delays in trials, which the UN says is resulting in extremely long periods of pre-trial detention should also be swiftly addressed.
A Gambian Member of Parliament, Ousman Sillah [PDOIS – Banjul North] has called for the relocation of the prison, describing it as inhabitable.
“Mile 2 prison should be transferred from its current place because that environment is not habitable, it exposes the inmates to dangers, and their health condition is being compromised,” Hon. Sillah said.
Gambia’s former regime of Yahya Jammeh has denied international organizations and rights groups access to the prison.
Two UN rights investigators were denied access to parts of the prison and prevented from completing a torture and killing probe.
Despite the restriction, their investigation found evidence of significant human rights violations in the prison, including torture and killings, placing pressure on the European Union to withhold a major aid package in 2015.