IHRDA to educate stakeholders about bad laws
As part of this awareness workshop, IHRDA is also determined to bring about a situation that would help repeal or amend colonial laws which are considered bad laws in our constitution.
The event was supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
âSo this is meant to start a conversation about how best to ensure that these colonial laws are either repealed or changed. The IHRDA cannot repeal laws. We cannot change the laws. But we can bring the stakeholders together so that we can come together to decide, really, the best way forward, âsays Gaye Sowe, Executive Director of IHRDA.
The main objective of the workshop was to provide participants with adequate information on the situation of petty crimes in The Gambia and the opportunities to take measures for the decriminalization, declassification and better policing of petty crimes in the country, using regional human rights standards and best practices. .
At the end, participants should be well informed about the petty crime situation in The Gambia; the decriminalization of poverty from a human rights perspective, regional standards on the decriminalization of petty crimes and state responsibility for decriminalization of petty crimes and its relevance to The Gambia.
âWe do a lot of capacity building on the African human rights system. We are registered here because we wanted to be very close to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), but we are Pan-African in the sense that we cover the entire continent. So we do this by building the capacities of strong actors, governmental and non-governmental agencies on the African human rights system, âsaid Gaye M. Sowe.
âBy that, we are talking about the mechanisms and this is something that we have been doing since 1998, when we were registered. But all our capacity building for government officials, in some cases, civil society, we also do a lot of litigation. We have cases before all the regional mechanisms, âhe added.
âIn the African court, we have two cases against The Gambia; the Kerr Mod Ali case and the other on the right to freedom of assembly, of association, law on public order, before the African Commission. We have nearly 10 or more cases against Congo Brazzaville, Congo DRC, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and many more. We also have cases before the ECOWAS Court against Nigeria, against Mali, against Benin and another host country.
He added that they recently filed a petition against Cameroon over child marriage and another against Nigeria over children accused of witchcraft.
âWhy are we here? Of course, we are not here to sue the Gambian government, but pushing for legislative reforms is certainly one of our priorities. We all know here that The Gambia has a constitution. constitution, we have the women’s law. We also have the children’s law. We know that our constitution is supreme and that same constitution guarantees the right to freedom of movement. It provides for the presumption of innocence, and of course, in addition to the constitution, we are also party to many treaties, including the right to freedom of movement, the right to dignity, the presumption of innocence, etc.
âEven though all these rights are guaranteed in our constitution, which we agreed earlier to be supreme, even though these rights are guaranteed in our African treaties that we have ratified, in international treaties that we have ratified, unfortunately, we have laws that do not speak. directly to the provisions of our constitution. Nor do they directly relate to the treaties that we have ratified. Some of these laws unfortunately target marginalized people in our countries. They target the homeless, the poor and the people who are really struggling to make a living. “
âWe call some of these laws, especially those in the Criminal Code and other laws, minor offenses. The laws, in general, are very vague. They are phrased in very, very general terms and studies have shown that they are also discriminatory. If you look at the laws, there are laws that we inherited from our colonial masters; they are colonial relics and unfortunately some of them are phrased in very disrespectful terms.
âCheck sections 160, 166 to 169 of our Criminal Code. What do you see? Offenses such as idleness and disorder, offenses such as thugs and vagrants; and even if you look at our whimsical dimension you would see terms like idiots, fools or whatever you might call it.
âOur Criminal Code was passed in 1933 and together with the laws we would be reviewing today. But unfortunately we really didn’t do a very good job making the necessary adjustments. So we decided it was important that we start looking at these laws; laws that send people to jail not because of what they have done, but because of a particular situation they found themselves in.
He added that it is as if someone is arrested, pursued and possibly sent to Mile II, not because of a crime committed but because of some unfortunate circumstance that one finds himself in. movement, and unfortunately you get caught because someone somewhere thinks you are idle and messy. You are arrested because someone out there thinks you are a thug and a vagabond, even before you are brought to justice to have your testimony heard.
He clarified that sending the people who committed these petty crimes to Mile II would not solve any problems, but rather try to acquire them skills, especially those who are seen as thugs and vagabonds, and education would be better. He tells of the belief that if they are skilled, they would not have time to idle and stroll.
Mr. Edmund Amarkwei Foley, Director of Programs at IHRDA, also argued that most minor infractions should not have been subject to criminal penalties and, as such, should be removed from the law books. .