The Executive Committee of United Democratic Party (UDP) in a press release has condemned what it calls “the high handedness” of state security officials in their handling of “peaceful marches on Thursday 14th and Saturday16th April 2016 at West field and Kairaba Avenue respectively.”
The release further condemned the arrest and detention of some of the party officials, members and other peaceful marchers.
“On the 14th April 2016, a group of concerned Gambians demanding genuine electoral reform to open up the country to conducting credible, free and fair elections, were arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination by the officials of the Gambia’s Police Intervention Unit,” the release asserted.
The release narrated how reports of “Ebrima Solo Sandeng’s death was as shocking as it was unbearable, compelling the leadership of the UDP to a peaceful march demanding that the authorities release him dead or alive, as well as the unconditional release of all the other detainees. On Saturday April 16th 2016 the executive of the United Democratic Party were also arrested and have been in enforced state detention since.”
The release went on to state that on Wednesday 20th April 2016 after more than 72 hours in detention, eighteen people were brought before a judge and charged with varying offences including conspiracy to riot and conducting a march without a permit, etc.
It added that seven of those arrested are yet to be produced in court. “In essence, they still remain unaccounted for. They include: Ebrima Solo Sandeng, Nogoie Njie, Fatoumata Jawara, Fatou Camara, Modou Ngum, Kafu Bayo and Ebrima Jabang.”
The release informs that for “those arrested on 16th April 2016 which include the UDP Leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and his executive, Nineteen (19) remain in custody while thirteen (13) have been released on bail. On Thursday 28th April 2016, the state produced one more person before the court who was also jointly charged alongside the UDP leader and his executive.”
The UDP release maintains that The Gambia government continues to flout the high court orders for the detainees to be allowed family visits, food from the families, access to lawyers and other rights and privileges under the prison rules to change of clothes.
“The UDP still remains deeply concern about the whereabouts of one of its supporters, Dembo S. Darboe (Touray Darboe). He is from Kafuta village Kombo East and was picked up by plain clothes security officers on Saturday evening 16th April 2016 in the same village on his way from the mosque. His whereabouts are still not known.
“The United Democratic Party noted with great concern, the actions and conduct of security forces for not only preventing and denying its members and other concern citizens from exercising their constitutional rights, but has gone to the extent of inflicting brutal and inhumane treatments on them,” the statement asserted.
According to the UDP release, the UDP considers the breaking up of its peaceful march by the security forces while allowing the militants and members of the ruling APRC Party to conduct a series of pro-government demonstrations in the past as bias; and condemns this.
The release further states: “The UDP recognises the concerns of the International Community and is grateful to the solidarity from civil society groups, Gambians and friends of The Gambia at home and abroad in this difficult moment.
“The UDP will continue to remain steadfast in demanding for freedom, justice, rule of law and democracy in The Gambia. We continue to stand firm in the collective efforts to liberate our beloved country from the clutches of this tyrannical regime.
“We salute the uncompromised support and solidarity of the party’s militants, youths and women in particular.”
In conclusion the executive committee made the following demands:
- That our party Leader and Secretary General Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and all other political detainees be immediately and unconditionally released;
- That reports of the torture and death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng be fully investigated and the culprits brought to book;
- That reports of the severe torture of other detainees be also fully investigated and the culprits brought to book;
- That the security forces put a total stop to the excessive use of force in denying and preventing citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful demonstration;
- That the security of UDP party officials and members be guaranteed.