Annual Report: Gambia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Gambia 2013

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  • In April, 18 men and two women who were or were perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, were arrested during a raid on a nightclub. They were charged with attempting to commit “unnatural acts” and “conspiracy to commit felony”. The charges were dropped for lack of evidence in August.
  • In October, the media and family members reported that former government Minister Mambury Njie was arrested and detained by the NIA. His detention exceeded the maximum 72 hours and his family was not informed of the reason for arrest. He was released on bail a few days later and re-arrested in December, after reporting to the police in line with his bail conditions. He was taken to court and charged with economic crimes and abuse of office, with no further details, before being remanded in custody at Mile II Prison. In court, Mambury Njie did not have legal representation and he was not informed of his right to a lawyer. He remained in detention at the end of the year. It was reported in the media that while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs in August, Mambury Njie was opposed to orders to execute death row inmates.

Repression of dissent

  • In January, the former Minister of Information and Communication, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour after being convicted of treason. Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow and Michael Uche Thomas were each sentenced to three years with hard labour for sedition. The four were arrested in June 2011 for being in possession of T-shirts which featured the slogan “End Dictatorship Now”. Michael Uche Thomas died in prison in July due to illness and reported lack of medical care. In September, Dr Janneh was granted presidential pardon and expelled from the country. A month later, Modou Keita was also released. Ebrima Jallow remained in prison.
  • In September, two journalists, Baboucarr Ceesay and Abubacarr Saidykhan, were arbitrarily arrested after applying to the police for a permit to demonstrate peacefully against the August executions of nine death row inmates. Both men were arbitrarily detained, charged with sedition and released on bail. In October, the charges were dropped on the orders of the President. A few days later the journalists received death threats, which the police said they would investigate, but no progress had been made by the end of the year.

Freedom of expression

In January, an independent radio station, Teranga FM, was closed down without explanation. In August, a few months after its reopening, Teranga FM was ordered to shut down again by NIA officers. The station had previously been briefly closed in 2011.

In September, plain-clothed men, suspected to be NIA officers, entered the offices of The Standard and Daily News newspapers and ordered them to suspend their activities. No court order or document was issued and the editors were not given any explanation. The papers remained closed at the end of the year.

The same month a BBC journalist, a French national, was held for more than five hours at Banjul airport. He was told to leave the country within 48 hours without any explanation and despite the fact that he had obtained previous authorization to report from the Gambia. He had come to report on the August executions.

Enforced disappearances

In May the Inspector General of Police stated that, according to information received by Interpol, Ebrima Manneh, a journalist who disappeared while in police custody in 2006, had been seen in the USA. This information was not confirmed by Interpol and Ebrima Manneh remained listed as a missing person on Interpol's website. The reported sighting was strongly denied by his family.