The executive committee of the United Democratic Party (UDP), once more wishes to bring to the attention of the general public and the international community on the manner and sequence of events in the ongoing protracted and truncated trials involving the UDP party leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and other party members.
It could be recalled that 24 supporters of the opposition UDP Who were arrested in connection with the 14th April 2016 peaceful march held demanding for genuine electoral reforms that would create the environment for the conduct of credible, free and fair elections were brought before the High Court after more than the 72 hours constitutional deadline for any person detained to be brought before a court or Law or released.
On two occasions it was reported that the case would not be taken to Mansakonsko High Court but neither the detainees nor the judge did appear on the first day. The second day, it was mentioned in the court but the detainees were not produced.
The third sitting on Wednesday 15th June 2016, eleven of them appeared in court and were tried without counsels representing them. After the sitting, they were transferred to a more notorious Janjanbureh prison in the Central River Region where they were and are still been deprived of their prison rights. The defense opposed the transfer of the case to Mansakonko on the basis of lack of jurisdiction.
It is the belief of the UDP that this act by the state is a deliberate strategy to frustrate and deny the family members, the lawyers and party supporters as well as other concerned citizens, not only, from attending the court sittings but also having access to them, which is very unfair, inhumane and therefore and totally uncalled for.
It was reported that the charges against thirteen others were dropped as a result of their petition to the IGP which they denied. Subsequently, on Thursday 16th June 2016, they were released on bail on condition that they should not part take in any demonstration and should keep the peace.
The defense filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the case of Ebrima Solo Sandeng one of the detainees of the 14th arrest, who was reportedly tortured to death while under NIA custody. Although it is noted with concern the recent interview of President Jammeh with a French magazine in connection with the issue, we firmly look forward to the court to judiciary and judiciously act on the matter.
The Secretary General and Party Leader UDP, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and nineteen other party executive members and supporters have also been on a trial for about two months now in connection with the 16th April 2016 peaceful march that was staged demanding for the release of Solo Sandeng death or alive.
Lawyer Darboe and Co were denied bail, put in solitary confinement of the remand wing of Mile 2 for some time and denied their prison rights. Even the lawyers were denied private discussion with them by the security agents. All applications before the court were refused including stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the matter before the Supreme Court. As a result blatant bias, the defense team withdrew from the case. As if that was not enough, the presiding judge went further to impose on to the detainees to rather defend themselves and they are been tried without legal representation.
On an equally serious issue is the fact that for more than a month, over thirty party members and supporters of UDP (the male folks) who were arrested, tortured and detained in an undisclosed destination on the 9th May 2016 on their way from attending the court sitting of Darboe and Co, have still not appeared before any court, their families and lawyers do not have access to them. They have not had change of clothes since then. Their conditions and whereabouts remain a great concern and mystery to the party to date.
The continuous detention without trial of UDP supporter Dembo S. Darboe (also known as Touray Darboe) still remains a great concern to the party. He is from Kafuta village Kombo East and was picked up by plain cloth security officers on Saturday evening 16th April 2016 in the same village on his way from the mosque. His whereabouts are still not known.
Another party supporter, Sanusi Sanyang who was also 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 the light of the above, coupled with the president’s recent pronouncements in relation to the issue and the forth coming presidential elections, the UDP has reasons to believe that the trials are politically motivated and the detainees will not be accorded a fair trial. The president shall be held fully responsible for anything that happens to the said detainees.
The UDP unreservedly demands:
- The immediate and unconditional release of the Party Leader and Secretary General Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and all other political detainees;
- An independent enquiry to investigate the brutal murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, and the culprits are brought to face the full force of the law;
- An investigation on the reported severe torture of other detainees 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.
Written By Mariam B. Secka
Deputy Secretary General and Deputy Party Leader
23rd June 2016