The Gambia’s Interior Minister is once again publicly clearing his name. In a message, Mai Ahmad Fatty writes that he does not authorise the arrest of any lawyer of the State Intelligence Service or any other person of interest to law enforcement.
Due to public expressions of concerns communicated to me by many of you via social media, I deem it useful to clarify the situation. I did not authorise the arrest of Lawyer M.O Badgie of the SIS or any other person of interest to law enforcement and I was not consulted prior to his arrest. As Minister under this democratic dispensation, I have, as a matter of policy, reinforced the tactical and operational independence of The Gambia Police Force, to perform their statutory duties in accordance with the Police Act and other cognate laws. This is intended to eliminate political interference and undue influence in the professional activities of the Force. As such, I do not grant prior validation to the Police on matters of arrest, detention, investigation or prosecution, or restrained their capacity to do so in the proper exercise of their functions.
I have created a Human Rights Unit attached to the Office of the Minister, to monitor, investigate and recommend for action matters dealing with police misconduct, human rights violations and public complaints against law enforcement. I do not deal with technical matters such as arrests, detention and police prosecution, etc. Although I take full responsibility of the satellite institutions under my Ministry, it would constitute a misconception of the role of a security Minister to include the power of arrest, detention and prosecution. It would be wrong assumption to conclude that the Minister of Interior would be aware of every arrest or detention situation in the country. The Minister should not interfere in such matters.
The Minister is 100% correct in distancing his office from DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONAL MATTERS – certainly with regard to arrests and charges it is NOT his role to interfere.
BUT, the Minister is also a POLITICIAN … the politician in-charge of the Police. If in UK the police arrested Labour Leader Corbyn today, the country will say “it is because May lost her majority” and blame May’s Government for the arrest. So Mai has to watch what the police do under HIS WATCH – because his Government will carry the blame: the hottest Gambian On-Line news today is Pa Mbai’s INTERVIEW of Journalist Nani Sey (where it is claimed that Saul Frazer, President Barrow’s Ambassador at Large and “owner” of the disputed Kololi land “SET-UP THE JOURNALIST’S ARREST”!). True or NOT, that claim gives the Govt of President Barrow a bad reputation.
So the Minister In-Charge of the Police has to SET POLICY ON ARREST AND DETENTION because that is HIS ROLE. For example: WAS IT NECESSARY TO HOLD BOTH THE JOURNALIST AND THE LAWYER FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS TO FACILITATE INTERVIEWING AND CHARGING? They are both out on bail now – but after massive bad on-line publicity for the government. OK, the Human Rights Unit at the Minister’s Office will help – but only if they will be available to the arrested and their lawyers immediately and if they have the power to direct release on bail in casesb such as these.
Though I have great respect for Hon. Fatty, by far one of the most effective minister in govt today, I think the buck stops at his pult. Such high profile arrest may not be sanctioned by the minister but as soon as he is aware of them, must ensure the “satellite agencies” deliver a compelling account for the arrest. In default of which order them to release the person.
We must be steadfast here and sharply distinguish between lawful activities of the agencies and the oversight role of the civilian overseers. The civilian oversight role must be strengthened and not weakened. And actions like the arrest and putting in custody of Mr. Badgie, erodes and weakens civilian control of the security agencies. Public confidence in the oversight role of elected civilian erodes as well. Preventing that erosion is perhaps the central role of the minister in charge.