Gambia: President Adama Barrow and his Administration must condemn police brutality and uphold the promises made to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms –Team Gom Sa Borpa
Banjul, 12 November, 2018- Police bullying, brutality and abuse have once again reared its ugly head in The Gambia. Several weeks ago, youth activist and musician, Ali Cham (aka Killa Ace), was profiled, searched without a warrant, or due cause, intimidated, beaten up, arrested, and falsely charged.
“I was deliberately targeted by the officers that assaulted me, because they came straight for me in the public place for no apparent reason. I was assaulted, arrested, and now I am being charged with ridiculous infractions that are laughable. This is clearly designed to intimidate me, and stopping me from speaking up against corruption and poor governance in this country. But I will not be intimidated,” said Killa Ace.
The youth activist was charged with assaulting a police officer and attempting to commit suicide under custody. The attempting to commit suicide charge was not mentioned in court instead it was replaced by a breach of peace charge. He has denied all charges. Human rights defenders worry that the recently acquired culture of democracy and freedoms, post the Jammeh dictatorship, is rapidly being rolled back, as the Barrow administration has reneged on commitments made towards legislative reforms, which include the repealing of draconian laws, as well as rolling out much needed security sector reforms.
“The assault on Killa Ace must be condemned strongly by the government, failing which Barrow will be sending the signal that he is no different from the Jammeh dictatorship, which was responsible for the most heinous acts of rights abuses, which include the very forms of assault and abuse of the rights of innocent citizens with impunity we are witnessing currently” said a representative of the R2K Gambia.
This is not the first time that police have assaulted civilians, nor is it the first time that outspoken members of civil society have been targeted by the Barrow administration through the security apparatus. Dr Ismaila Ceesay, a lecturer and public commentator was arrested on 31st January 2018 for speaking out about the fragility of the security sector in the country. He was not charged but was released after pressure was brought to bear on the authorities. The fraternity of Gambian CSOs, TANGO, issued an eleven point resolution condemning the growing trend of abuse and police brutality under the Barrow administration on 1st February 2018. That resolution called for, amongst other things: “To demand that all officers responsible for the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention of [Dr. Ismaila Ceesay] and any infringements on the rights of citizens to be held to account’’. This statement was made nine months ago, and to date, those responsible for the continued and systematic intimidation and rights abuses are left unpunished.
Dr Ismaila Ceesay was the first victim of abuse by the Barrow administration. Last month, police arrested Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh, another prominent human rights activist and environmentalist, and slapped him with fictitious and frivolous charges, which he denies; the case in currently in court. Killa Ace is the most recent victim. But there have been many more assaults and unlawful arrests of civilians. The trend is worrying, unacceptable and must be halted.
It has been almost two weeks since the police brutalized Killa Ace; we have not heard anything from the Barrow administration. Team Gom Sa Borpa urges President Barrow to speak up against such assaults on innocent Gambians, failing which we will hold him personally responsible for spreading terror in the country, and encouraging a return to Jammeh’s bad old days of tyranny and horror.
We wish to also bring to the President’s attention the inhumane treatment of detainees at the Anti Crime Unit base in Bijilo. It is common knowledge that the constitution clearly states that one shouldn’t be kept in custody beyond 72 hours without being charged and taken to court no matter what crime they are accused of committing. But the manner in which officers of the anti crime unit treat these youths is unacceptable. And we would like to bring to the attention of the president. There are rogue elements within the anti crime unit and they are badly tainting the overall objective of establishing this unit.
We await a reaction from the Gambia government, and expect that they do the right thing in protecting the rights of citizens instead of violating them.
“This is much bigger than Killa Ace alone, because Gambians expected President Barrow, to have made good on his promise to root out such murderers, torturers, and perpetrators, and not elevate some of them, and keep most of them in the service of the nation that have suffered such grievances for 22 years under Jammeh,” said Jeggan Grey-Johnsons, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator of African Regional office of the Open Society Foundations.
Team Gom Sa Borpa expected President Barrow to have shown empathy, courage, and strong political will and at the very least, deter such occurrences in our new found democracy. But we are disappointed that he has chosen to embrace such rotten elements in his new administration so that they can continue to abuse and undermine the very security, peace and stability we voted for on December 2 2016. We will not stand idly and see this aspiration dissipate or undermined. We will not standby by and watch colleagues, and fellow citizens continue to be the subject of cruelty and rights violations. We will stand up for our fundamental rights and the rights of others to speak up, and shine a light in the dark corners where tyranny and impunity take refuge and attempt to thrive. We will protect our new found democracy, because the price of such freedom was too costly to surrender to tyranny, especially for a second time. So we ask, once again, for umpteenth time, that President Barrow speaks up against this worrying trend, and demonstrate political will in putting a stop to such brutality once and for all.
About Team Gom Sa Borpa:
Team Gom Sa Bopa Movement (TGSB) is a youth Movement dedicated to raising awareness and participation among young people through Art and arousing their interest in the development of The Gambia.
For more information please contact:
Name: Team Gom Sa Bopa
Phone: +2207000442/ 7202981