The Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the Gambia Police Force Abdoulie Sanyang has said that the action of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) to fire tear gas on supporters of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who were gathered in front of the UDP leader Hon. Ousainou Darboe’s compound along Kairaba Avenue on 5th December 2021, was part of the Standard Operational Procedure guidelines of the police in controlling crowds.
He added that the police action by using tea gas is part of the internationally accepted standards of crowd control but not a human rights violation.
According to IGP Sanyang, the police did their job within the limits of the law and their mandate in ensuring that the crowd disperses peacefully.
The IGP made these remarks while responding to Hon. Yaya Sanyang, National Assembly Member for Latrikunda Sabiji during a session of the Human Rights and Constitutional Matters meeting with Security Institutions on Human Rights Compliance and Situation in the country, on 22nd June 2022 at the National Assembly in Banjul.
It could be recalled supporters of the UDP had since 5th December 2021, rejected the results of the last presidential election held on 4th December 2021. The UDP has accused President Adama Barrow of election fraud which led to their filing of a petition against president Barrow’s party, the National People’s Party (NPP), and the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). This case was eventually struck out by the Supreme Court on 28th December 2021.
Reacting further to Hon. Sanyang’s question, IGP Abdoulie Sanyang said the action of the police on UDP supporters at Hon. Ousainou Darboe’s home was not considered by the police a human rights violation. He said the police action is based on the laid down standard procedures.
“What I want to respond to is the issue of tear gas thrown at Hon. Darboe’s place as raised by Hon. Yaya Sanyang, Member for Latrikunda Sabiji. So if you take that as a human rights violation, as far as we are concerned, we don’t take it as a human rights violation because when officers are sent to the ground, there are procedures they have to follow before they fire those tea gas. So if those procedures they follow according to the law, according to the act. So when we are doing the investigation, we are going to look at their action based on the Standard Procedures that are laid down. So if they violate those Standard Procedures that are laid down, then that is the time you can hold them culpable. But if they don’t violate those laid down rules, there is nothing you can hold them accountable for, and let me be quick to say here that, maybe you don’t have all the facts. On that particular incident, do you know that I have been talking with the ……〔I don’t want to mention his name 〕at that house for almost six hours, to plead with him for people to disperse. And he has been asking me to give him time for one hour, one hour, until 7 pm before we forced them to disperse and they are within their rights. For whatever reason you are gathered, if the police say you should disperse, you should disperse but if you refuse to disperse, the only weapon they have is to throw tea gas to make sure they disperse and that was within the laid down standards of operation,“ IGP Sanyang told lawmakers.
He disclosed that when he was informed that there were some people who fell down as a result of the tear gas, he gave an order for them to be escorted to the hospital for medical treatment that very night. Sanyang argued that if using tear gas to disperse a crowd is considered a human rights violation, then every country in the world is violating human rights because that is what happens everywhere. He revealed that a police officer was stabbed during the protest and he was flown to India for treatment at the expense of the Gambia Police Force. He also clarified that he has not received any report of any misconduct from any police officer.
The IGP advised that if anyone has a complaint against a police officer, it should be reported to his office and the necessary procedure of discipline will be taken upon investigating the matter.
He however warned that if officers too are reprimanded for every single mistake, then there will come a time when no officer will be ready to execute their duties in difficult situations, simply because of the fear of being reprimanded for any mistake.
Present at the National Assembly were Abdoulie Jarra, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Interior, and Parliamentarians such as the Deputy Speaker Hon. Seedy S.K Njie, Hon. Muhammed Kanteh of Busumbala Constituency, Hon. Madi Ceesay, NAM for Serrekunda West, who also doubles as the Chairman of the National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters, Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Hon. Badjie, etc.