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HomeGambia NewsGAMBIA: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RENEWS CALLS FOR AMMENDMENT OF PUBLIC ORDER ACT

GAMBIA: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RENEWS CALLS FOR AMMENDMENT OF PUBLIC ORDER ACT

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The National Human Rights Commission has renewed its call for the amendment of section 5 of the Public Order Act- “from requirement of a permit to only notification”.

The 1963 Act requires every person or group to obtain a permit or licence for public procession or protest from the Inspector General of Police or Governor of a region.

But outlining its position on the matter in its 2022 annual State of Human Rights Report released last week the NHRC said that the law continues to restrict the right to freedom of association and assembly in The Gambia.

“Section 5 of the Public Order Act (1963) requires every person or group to obtain a permit or licence for a public procession or protest from the Inspector General of Police or Governor of a Region. A challenge to the constitutionality of this section vis a viz section 25 of the constitution failed because the Supreme Court determined that the limitations are in line with section 25 of the constitution and international human rights standards. Due to the discretionary power given to the Inspector General of Police by Section 5 of the Public Order Act, to grant or deny citizens’ requests for a permit to protest, there have been instances when such requests have been denied.

The NHRC then went onto list the many cases of permit denials.

It said on 14 February 2022, Gambia Participates, an anti-corruption CSO, was denied a permit to protest at the National Assembly against the delay to enact the Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2019. “The ‘Coalition of Progressives’, which wanted to embark on a nationwide peace demonstration against the current economic hardship, high cost of living, corruption and unemployment, had their permit request denied on 25 August 2022 ostensibly on ‘security grounds; on 22 August September 2022, a group of youths in Banjul, known as the ‘Arr Banjul Movement’, also protested, albeit without a police permit, against the deteriorating environmental situation in Banjul. Riot Police were stationed at strategic locations in the capital and some members of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) were at Bund Road where the protest was meant to take place.In the evening of this protest, the protest leaders were called in for questioning at the Police Headquarters in Banjul18 on 26 December  2022 some youths belonging to the UDP protested the arrest and detention of Momodou Sabally and demanded his unconditional release. During the procession, PIU personnel used teargas to disperse the protesters and injured some in the crackdown.

The NHRC reminded government that in its white paper on the TRRC report, it has accepted the recommendation for the National Assembly to conduct a comprehensive review of the Public Order Act to bring it in line with international human rights instruments and customary standards, and also agreed to ‘initiate a review’ of the said Act.

It advised the government to initiate the amendment of section 5 of the Public Order Act, from the requirement of a permit to only notification.

It added: “Encourage civic engagement around the issue of the right to freedom of association and assembly; enhance the capacity of law enforcement agencies on crowd control and management of public assemblies and; integrate the ‘Guidelines on Policing Public Assemblies in The Gambia’ in the training curricula of all law enforcement agencies.

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