By Bakary Ceesay/The Voice
“Our prisons conditions are very bad, there are horrible bedding and sleeping conditions and are overcrowded,” according to Hamat NK Bah, leader of opposition National Reconciliation Party, NRP.
“We are aware that they are building extra cells in Jeshwang but that is not the solution. Some of these minor crimes - they are sending young people (if they catch them with marijuana) to five or ten years in jail should be stopped,” he said.
Mr Bah alleges during a press conference in August that there are no mattresses, no mosquito nets and inmates are dying of malaria at the prisons.
He said it is important to have mosquito nets and mattresses at prisons, and there is a need for the government to look into these issues - marijuana should not be an issue now.
“The issue of marijuana - some people have made a different theory about it. Today, in some part of America, it is free to use for recreation purposes. So why do we have to imprison a young man up to ten years in jail for being in possession of one pack of cannabis - spoiling his whole life when the big cocaine dealers are all over the world destroying the world and escaping justice,” Bah said.
He said the reason the prisons are “overcrowded” is because many of “our young people” have been sent to prison for ten years or a fine of D5OO, OOO for being caught with only one pack of cannabis.
“Sending young people to ten years in jail is a serious concern because by the time they are released they will lose hope in life and will not know where to start,” Mr Bah said.
“Let's make sure that our prisons are not forgotten because we have human-beings in there and anyone could be there.”
In April 2014, The Gambia Human Rights Network (GHRN) raised concerns over prison conditions in the West African country.
It submitted recommendations to the 20th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of The Gambia working group ahead of its review meetings slated for October-November this year.
GHRN said reports by human rights organisations indicated that prison conditions in The Gambia have “worsened” since the last periodic review in 2010.
According to Amnesty International (AI), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied access to Gambia prisons since 2006. AI has recommended to the UPR for the government to allow independent human rights monitors access detention centres and as well improve conditions of prisons.
The Gambia has not ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
· Additional reporting by Modou S. Joof
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