Police in The Gambia have been criticised for their treatment of an opposition supporter during clashes between officers and peaceful protesters at a demonstration in Brikama on Thursday evening.
Supporters of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) shared video footage on social media that appeared to show PIU officers kicking and beating an unarmed, non-threatening Kebba Chatty with batons all over his body as he cried for help.
Social media users described the incident as “outrageous” and “appalling”.
But at a key stakeholders’ dialogue on electoral process, the Chair National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chair Emmanuel D. Joof, advised the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Abdoulie Sanyang, to adopt the 2020 AU Guidelines on Policing Public Assemblies.
Mr Joof said: “NHRC is very concerned about the use of excess force against demonstrators by members of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), and it has raised this with the office of the IGP and those officers found to have been engaged in the assault and torture of unarmed and defenceless protesters should be prosecuted.”
“The NHRC equally condemns the use of violence by supporters of the United Democratic Party (UDP) to settle political grievances. There should be no justification for using violence to settle political grievances in our current democratic dispensation,” he added.
“As the lead institution responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights and task with restoring a culture of respect for human rights in the country, we call on: 1. The IGP to adopt the 2020 AU Guidelines on Policing Public Assemblies in The Gambia – the Gambia Police has placed upon itself the obligation to put in place mechanisms and standards for the peaceful management of Assemblies and demonstrations.”
“We urge the politicians and party supporters to abide by the code of the conduct of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Peace Pledge/ Janjanbureh Peace Accord, as we go through the legislative elections. And we also urge everyone to always be law abiding, uphold the rule of law and follow due process when aggrieved.”
The NHRC Chair re-echoed that violence has the potential of disturbing the peace and security of the country and retarding its development.