Gambia: Human rights lawyer says police statement regarding demo without permit evokes dictatorship

GAMBIA POLITICO: POLICE PRESS RELEASE EVOKES DICTATORSHIP

The Gambia Police Force need to learn the art of drafting press releases, when addressing Gambian citizens about exercising their constitutional rights of staging public manifestations!

Their recent press release of 8 February 2019, about a rumoured public manifestation, evokes a dictatorship era press release from the Police than that expected in a democratic era.

The press release expected from the Police in the New Gambia, supposed to firstly acknowledge that the right to protest, is a fundamental constitutional rights of the citizens. It further supposed to advise citizens of the importance of securing police permits for their intended or planned public manifestations. The merits and benefits of having such a Police permit, in order to ensure that Police are aware and able to protect the citizens’ rights to public manifestation and that of the rights of others.

They need to learn to motivate citizens to cooperate with the police for such public manifestations than threaten them against holding such events without their blessings.

Surely they have been empowered to grant or refuse permits to citizens to exercise such constitutional rights, but with good reasons for such by the drafters of the constitution and the public that endorsed the same at the public referendum! It was for the good intention of them offering protections to the protesters and other members of the public.

However, it could not be for them to usurp such rights of the citizens as theirs, which needed to be begged by the citizens, in order for them to be able to exercise the same.

Hence, the Police ought to learn to address the citizens with respect not screaming and shouting at them, as if dealing with delinquents!

Our people are, by great majority, law abiding citizens. They do not need to be warned but reminded of the benefits of working with the police; and should not be threatened of the consequences of confronting the police. There is no need for such a perception. Intention to protest should never be interpreted as intention to confront or fight with the Police.

Hence, it’s right time for our Police to not just respect the rights of our citizens to protest but be prepared to defend the same. Lessons from the Faraba incident must be learnt! Protesters are not rebels but law abiding citizens acting within the confines of the law, and should be treated as such!

The Police should resist the influence of the authorities, who intends to deprive the citizens of the abilities to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights, due to their fears of the consequences of such actions on their political careers!!!

Let our protesters protest and protect their rights to do so!!!

Written by Yankuba Darbo, Human Rights Lawyer 

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