As the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and other party militants appear before a judge of the High Court in the protracted and truncated trial that has rightly attracted both national and international attention, the Executive Committee of the UDP would like to remind Gambians and the International Community of the sequence of events that led to the appearance of its leader and supporters at the High Court. In doing so the Executive Committee again reiterates its total condemnation of the high handed and brutal manner with which the state security forces dealt with the peaceful marches on Thursday 14th and 16th April 2016 at West field and Kairaba Avenue respectively and the subsequent arrest, detention and torture of some of the party officials, party supporters and even innocent bystanders.
On the 14th April 2016, a group of concerned Gambians demanding genuine electoral reforms that would create the environment for the conduct of credible, free and fair elections were arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination by the officials of the Gambia’s Police Intervention Unit. They were reportedly subjected to severe torture. As a result, one of them Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the UDP National Organizing Secretary was reported to have died from the torture inflicted on him.
News of Ebrima Solo Sandeng‘s death was as shocking as it was unbearable, compelling the leadership of the UDP to organize a peaceful march demanding his release dead or alive, as well as the unconditional release of all the other detainees.
On Saturday April 16th 2016 whilst on a peaceful march, the UDP Leader together with other Executive members were also arrested and have been in enforced state detention since then.
On Wednesday 20th April 2016 after more than the 72 hours constitutional deadline, eighteen people were brought before a Judge and charged with various offences including conspiracy to riot and conducting a march without a permit etc.
On Thursday 05th May 2016, out of the remaining seven detainees that were not previously produced before the Court,six of them namely: Nogoie Njie, Fatoumatta Jawara, Fatou Camara, Modou Ngum, Kafu Bayo and Ebrima Jabang were all produced and jointly charged together with the other eighteen detained persons. However EBRIMA SOLO SANDENG was not produced before the court fuelling rumors that he might have been severely tortured to death.
For those arrested on the 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 Thursday28th April 2016 the Stateproduced one more person before the court who was jointly charged alongside the UDP Leader and his Executive.
The Gambia Government continues to flout Court Orders for the detainees to be allowed food from their families and other rights and privileges under the Prisons rules including change of clothes.
The UDP still remains deeply concerned about the whereabouts of one of its supporters Dembo S. Darboe (also known as Touray Darboe). He is from Kafuta village Kombo East and was pickedup by plain cloth security officers on Saturday evening 16thApril 2016 in the same village on his way from the mosque. His whereabouts are still not known.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) also wishes to inform the general public and the International Community that the government of the Gambia has since widened the scope of crackdown on defenceless citizens. In a deliberate state of witch hunt, state security operatives have arrested Mr Lamin Barrow, the husband of Ms Fatoumata Jawara, on Wednesday May 11th, as he was coming out of the court premises. Ms Fatoumata Jawara was among the youth activists arrested on April 14th and one of the brutally tortured abductees and was left in coma for days. Her young infants were in the care of relatives when the husband who has since been released, was arrested and placed under custody.
Another party supporter Sansui Sanyang was earlier picked up by NIA operatives on Tuesday the 10th May 2016 outside his home in the Kanifing Municipal area. His whereabouts are also unknown.
In all 50 people have been arrested in on May 9th and 10th on their way from attending the court proceeding of Lawyer Darboe and his co accused. All the men were taken to Janjanbureh Prisons in the Central River Region (CRR), while the women still remain in custody at headquarters of the Police Intervention Unit in Kanifing. Among the abductees all of whom are denied medical care is a lactating mother of a one month old baby. All the abductees are reported to have been brutally tortured including the baby’s mother.
This new scope of repression directed at the population has accentuated the deteriorating political and security situation in The Gambia and could lead to a catastrophic conflagration if the world stands by and watch an unreconstructed tyrant wage war on defenceless citizens. Abductions, torture, murder and forced disappearances as well as rape and other degrading forms of treatment have become routine instruments of government crackdown on peaceful protests.
These routine methods of despicable cruelty being visited on Gambians are part of a systematic pattern by the Gambia government as it attempts to skewer the 2016 elections scheduled to take place in December.
Meanwhile, UDP thanks the European Parliament for the adoption of a resolution on Wednesday May 11, 2016 deploring the orchestrated violence and terror perpetrated by The Gambia government against peaceful demonstrators that gathered to show solidarity with lawyer Ousainou Darboe and his co-accused.
The resolution further condemned The Gambia government for its disdainful record of serial abuse of its citizens in addition to the persistent violations of their rights under the Constitution and International Treaties and Conventions to which it is a signatory.
We urge the European Union to work with the rest of the International Community to address the serious threat the vile regime of Yahya Jammeh poses to The Gambian people and by extension to the West African sub-region.
Despite the unrestrained level of terror orchestrated by the government, the population remains resolute in demanding for their rights and will settle for nothing less than an affirmative end to tyranny and dictatorship. We ask our compatriots fighting for freedom to remain united in purpose, resolute in focus and courageous in trial.
Together we will regain our country so that all Gambians will live in freedom and justice and have a government that respects our values and does not kill and maim them or otherwise have them live in mortal fear.
The way and manner in which the cases are proceeding in Court is of great concern to the UDP and all concerned citizens who believe that they may not be accorded a fair trial. As it is, the presiding judge handling the case of Lawyer Darboe and his co accused has now recused himself from the case following a “prank interview” with an online radio journalist based in the diaspora where the judge could be heard saying that the case before him is a political one which is better resolved politically outside of the court.
The UDP recognizes the concerns of the international community and is grateful to the civil society groups, Gambians and friends of The Gambia at home and abroad for their solidarity and support in these difficult and trying moments.
Similarly the UDP would like to register its appreciation of the support and manifestation of solidarity from the leadership and militants of other opposition parties during this current crisis and is confident that with a united front the task of rescuing and salvaging our country from the clutches of a brutal dictatorship will be achieved much sooner than later.
The UDP will remain ever vigilant and steadfast in demanding for freedom, justice, rule of law and democracy to prevail in The Gambia. We shall always stand firm in the struggle to liberate our beloved country from this tyrannical regime. We salute the gallant support and solidarity of the party militants, the youths and women folks in particular.
In this regard The UDP unreservedly demands:
- That the Party Leader and Secretary General Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and all other political detainees be immediately and unconditionally released;
- That the reported torture and death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng be fully investigated and the culprits are brought to face the full force of the law;
- That the severe torture of other detainees be fully investigated and the culprits be brought to book;
- That the security force put an immediate and total stop to the practice of denying and preventing the citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful demonstration and using unparalleled force in doing so;
- That the security of Party Officials and Members be guaranteed.
Mariam B. Secka
Deputy Secretary General and Deputy Party Leader
14th May 2016