By: Kebba AF Touray
Civil Society Organizations of The Gambia unanimously condemn the arrest and detention of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay calling it unlawful.
These statements were made during a press conference held at The Association of Non-Governmental Organization’s headquarters on Friday.
Madi Jobarteh, TANGO Program Manager, said freedom of expression is one of the foundations of democracy and good governance, one of the tools that empower the citizens to hold their governments to account, enables citizens to combat corruption to ensure that public services deliver effectively to the citizenry.
“Where you curtail freedom of expression effectively, you would disempower the citizenry and The Gambia has seen evidences of that in the past 22 year reign”, said Jobarteh
This according to Mr. Jobarteh, has prompted the CSOs to convene meetings on Thursday and Friday to discuss what concerted efforts would be taken to address the arrest of Dr. Ceesay as well as responding to a wider civil, political, economic and social issues within the country under the new dispensation, especially in its performance and decisions.
Mr. John Njie the Chair of TANGO, on behalf of the CSOs made the following demands;to issue a press statement to condemn the arrest and detention of Dr. Ceesay, to stage a peaceful protest to defend human rights and democracy in the New Gambia, to seek a meeting with the IGP to discuss the need for the protection of human rights, to demand that the IGP offer a public apology to Dr. Ceesay, to hold a press conference to further popularize these issues with the general public, to sue the IGP for unlawful arrest and detention contrary to Section 19 subsection 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia 1997,to urge all Gambian media to report on issues of human rights extensively in line with ECOWAS Human Rights indicators, to petition all international development partners and foreign missions on the state of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the Gambia ,to seek an audience with the President of the Republic to express civil Society concerns and demands for effective and accountable leadership, promotion of democracy, the protection of human rights and adherence to the rule of law, to seek engagement with the National Assembly to ensure the repeal of anti-democratic laws and the creation of human rights friendly laws, to urge the Government to hold to account all officers responsible for the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay and any infringements on the rights of citizens.
Lawyer Combeh Gaye on behalf of The Gambia Bar Association, said the Bar Association is disheartened and concerned about the arrest and detention of Dr. Cessay, a political Science Lecturer at The University of The Gambia, which she noted all boiled down to views expressed in the voice Newspaper on the 23rd January 2018, where Dr. Ceesay stated that the presence of the ECOMIG Forces in The Gambia will not prevent long term security risk, if the President does not win the trust of the Army.
She cited it has been reported following the publication of this article, the Director of Press at the Office of the President called the publisher, the journalist who conducted the interview and the Gambia Press Union to complain about the article. Subsequently, she said Dr. Ceesay was arrested and charged with incitement of violence contrary to section 59 1(B) of the criminal code cap 10(01) volume 3 Laws of The Gambia, whilst the charges against Dr. Ceesay were withdrawn,
‘If this is the case, it is disheartened that Dr. Ceesay was arrested and detained for several hours for simply expressing his views about the security situation in The Gambia”, said Lawyer Gaye.
She said that section 25 1(A) of the constitution of The Gambia guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include the freedom of the press and other media and subsection B guarantees the freedom of thought, conscience, beliefs, which shall include academic freedom.
“The opinions expressed by Dr. Ceesay are views that the constitution guarantees him the right to express. It is therefore a derogation from the constitutional principles that the same organs of government, who are enjoying under section 17 of the constitution to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights including the freedom of expression would seek to charge Dr. Ceesay for exercising this freedom”, noted Lawyer Gaye.
A total of 16 Civil Society Organizations namely TANGO Gambia, Action Aid International The Gambia (AAITG), Gambia Bar Association, National Youth Council (NYC),Activista, Power of Freedom, United Purpose, UTG Faculty and Staff Association, ALELZ Media, National Youth Parliament, Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) – The Gambia, Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, People Democracy Movement (PDM), Gambia Has Decided16,#OccupyWestfield participated in the conference.