Gambia: Human Rights Committee Observes Long Detentions Without Trial

The National Assembly Member for Wuli East Constituency Hon. Suwaibou Touray, disclosed to his colleague members that they have observed that the long detention of persons at the Remand Wing of the State Central Prisons at Mile 2 without any court appearance, still continues.

Hon. Touray was tabling the committee’s report on its visit to major detention centers within the Kanifing Municipality and the West Coast Region.

According to Hon. Touray, the average length for detainees at the Remand Wing was nine months. He however said that one of those remanded claimed to have been held at the Remand Wing for eight years now. He further told his colleagues that the detainees laid complaints about having no court dates and said a small number even alleged that they were not afforded court appearance prior to their detention.

“This was a concern to committee members who highlighted that the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia dictates that no person shall be detained for a period exceeding 72 hours without appearing in a court of competent jurisdiction. Only the court may commit a person to such custody pending trial,” Touray emphasized. He added that visiting the Prison yards, the first observations made by the committee upon entry is that convicts are given uniforms identical for all inmates.

He said the convict wing was much more spacious and conducive than the remand wing, and detailed that convicted prisoners are provided a library and courtyard. He however stated that the committee observed the limited number of books in the library and the committee questioned the frequency of updating them.

“The security wing comprises inmates emanating from both convicted and the remand prisoners. The wing appeared to be more organized than the previous segments. The Director General noted that most-high-risk prisoners (being victims or harmful to themselves or high profiled prisoners) are secluded from the others and housed in the security wing,” he stated. He elaborated that the security wing comprises several buildings contained in the same section and they are the solitary confinement and other singular security confinements. He said the committee observed a cell block that appeared to be a colonial structure and comprised 99 cells; that this cell block was of interest to they noted that the most high-risk prisoners are housed in this particular block.

He said the Director General of Mile 2 Prisons, informed the committee that there is a roll-call every morning and as at that morning it was as follows:

1. Convicted Wing (Male)-153

2. Remand Detainees-113

3. Female Wing-8

4. Security Wing-5

He stated that the Director also told them that breakfast is scheduled for 8am while lunch is between 2pm to 4pm.

“The Director affirmed that the Prison Service has been tirelessly working to reform the Gambia Prison Service to a global standard and spoke of collaboration with numerous partners.”

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