Emmanuel Daniel Joof, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that police as protectors of the law have both a legal duty and a moral obligation to uphold human right standards and act strictly in accordance with the law including their code of conduct, and the spirit of international, regional human rights law, standards and frameworks. He added that they also have an obligation to follow due process and adhere to the provisions of Chapter 4 of the 1997 Constitution regarding safeguarding the rights of suspects during arrest, detention, and trial.
Mr. Joof made these remarks yesterday during the opening of a three-day human rights training for 30 police officers at a local hotel in Bijilo. He pointed out that The Gambia Police Force, many a times, while discharging their duties, have been allegedly accused of falling short of adhering to human rights standards.
“Police officers over a period of 22 years rule by the AFPRC and APRC respectively have been subjected to a lot of executive pressure to act and discharge their functions without following due process resulting in serious violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of the people”, he stated, saying continuous human rights training for law enforcement officials strengthens officers’ understanding and capacity to respect and protect the rights of others, especially those who are excluded or discriminated against, such as women and children minorities.
He highlighted that encouraging community policing brings law enforcement officers closer to the communities they serve and positions them in the eyes of the communities they serve as relevant and important partners in maintaining peace and law and order.
Chairperson Joof noted that the role of law enforcement officials in maintaining law and order and keeping the peace is central in the functioning of the state.
“The police play a very pivotal role in upholding and maintaining the peace in any country,’ he went on, adding that ‘protecting and respecting the human rights of every individual’ is also fundamental in the dispensation of the work of the police.”
The workshop aims to sensitise police officers about The National Human Rights Commission and its mandate; provisions of Chapter 4 of the 1997 Constitution on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms specifically relating to the rights of accused persons during arrest, detention and trail and related matters. It also seeks to provide information on regional and international human right standards relevant to their work; encourage the development of skills and the formulation and application of policies and code of conduct needed to transform that information into practical behaviour; sensitise them on their special role in policing public assembly; the principles and importance of community policing. Also issues relating to protection of children and promoting compliance and active enforcement and their role in relation to complaints of sexual and gender based violence and women’s rights, reinforce police officers respect for, and faith in, human dignity and fundamental human rights, and encourage and reinforce the ethos of legality and of compliance with international human rights standards within the police is organized by the NHRC in partnership with the Peace Building Support Office, Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and the UN Transitional Justice Project Management Unit under the umbrella of UNDP.