The Gambia: arbitrary arrest and detention of GPU Vice-President and a journalist

13/09/2012
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in The Gambia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of two journalists, Messrs. Babucarr Ceesay, First Vice-President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU)[1], and Abubacarr Saidykhan, a freelance journalist who often investigates and reports on cases of human rights violations.

According to the information received, in the afternoon of September 6, 2012, Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan were invited to the police headquarters in Banjul to allegedly collect a permit they had solicited in the morning of the same day in order to organise a peaceful protest against the recent execution of nine death-row detainees in the country[2]. However, both were arrested upon arrival at the police station and kept in custody, without any explanation given to them.

Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan spent four days in detention, during which they were reportedly separated, transferred to a different police station every night and intensively interrogated. In addition, the police escorted them to their houses to conduct a search. On September 7, 2012, the executive members of the GPU as well as their lawyer were denied access to visit them.

On September 10, 2012, Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan, were released on bail after signing a bond of GMD 250,000 (approximately 6,300 Euros). They are further required to report to the police headquarters on September 17, 2012.

On the same day, the initial charges of “inciting violence” that had been brought against them were dropped, and they were instead charged with “conspiracy to commit felony” in violation of Section 368 of the Criminal Code. They face up to seven years’ imprisonment. However, as of September 12, 2012, no charge sheet had been delivered to them and the police reportedly stated that they would not do so until they had completed the investigation.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arrest and detention of Messrs. Babucarr Ceesay and Abubacarr Saidykhan, since those acts seem to merely aim at hindering their human rights activities. The Observatory therefore calls upon the Gambian authorities to refrain from any judicial actions against the two human rights defenders and to put an end to all acts of harassment against them as well as against all human rights defenders in the Gambia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Gambian authorities and ask them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan as well as against all human rights defenders and their organisations in the Gambia;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders, in particular that of Messrs. Babucarr Ceesay and Abubacarr Saidykhan;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, and in particular :
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- and Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Gambia.

Addresses:

· Captain (retd.) Alhaji Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, President and Minister of Defence, Office of the President, State House, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. Fax: +220 4227 034. mail: info@statehouse.gm.
· Mr. Lamin A. M. S. Jobarteh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Department of State for Justice, Marina Parade, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. Fax: +220 4229 908
· Mr. Ousman Sonko, Minister of the Interior, Office of the President, State House, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. Fax: +220 4223 718
· Ambassador Mr. Ousman Badjie, Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the United Nations in Geneva, c/o Embassy of the Republic of the Gambia, 117, rue Saint Lazare, 75008 Paris, France. Fax: +33 1 53 04 05 99. Email: ambgambia_france117@hotmail.com

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Gambia in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, September 13, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

[1] Among the GPU’s aims are the promotion and defence of the rights to freedom of expression and of information.

[2] See FIDH and World Coalition Against The Death Penalty (WCADP) Joint Press Release, FIDH and the World Coalition against The Death Penalty call upon the African Union to relocate the seat of the ACHPR in another country, released on August 31, 2012, available at: http://www.fidh.org/FIDH-and-the-World-Coalition.

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