11 January 2013

Gambia: MFWA Calls for International Support for Detained Imam

press release

The government of The Gambia under its dictator, Yahya Jammeh continues to brutally repress and abuse voices of dissent in the country, despite consistent local and international condemnations.

Citizens, particularly rights advocates and defenders continue to suffer very severe forms of abuses including murder, torture, forced exile and unlawful detentions all perpetrated with gross impunity.

The latest victim is Imam Baba Leigh, an Islamic Cleric of Kanifing South Mosque in the capital, Banjul. He was arrested on December 3, 2012 by officials of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA), for condemning the government's execution of nine death row inmates in August 2012.

The whereabouts of the Cleric remains unknown and not even his family have been granted access to him. The disappearance of the Cleric is just one of the many cases of various forms of brutal FoE rights violations.

In August 2012, after torturing Ba Kawsu Fofana, another outspoken Cleric, the Jammeh regime forced him into exile in Senegal, for raising his voice against the government's perpetration of rights violations.

Abubacarr Saidykhan, a freelance journalist in November 2012 also fled the country due to persistent threats on his life after he and his colleague, Baboucarr Ceesay requested for a police permit to peacefully protest against the execution of the nine death row inmates.

In similar and horrific fashion the Yahya Jammeh government caused the disappearance of Chief Ebrimah Manneh, a reporter of pro-government newspaper, Daily Observer, since his arrest on July 11, 2006 by officials of the NIA while Musa Saidykhan, former editor-in-chief of the banned, The Independent newspaper was also arrested in March 2007, detained for 22 days and endured three days of torture.

Although the MFWA successfully litigated and won both cases at the ECOWAS Court, the Gambian government has to date refused to comply with the Court's decisions and compensate both Manneh and Saidykhan.

This day marks the 37th day of Leigh's detention and adds to the justifiable condemnation of Yahya Jammeh's intolerance to freedom of expression and disrespect for International and Gambian human rights laws.

The MFWA remains saddened by this development and calls for support from the International community in demanding the immediate release of Imam Leigh and pressurise President Jammeh to respect the rights of Gambian citizens to express themselves freely as entrenched in the Constitution of Gambia and International human rights treaties, ratified by the Gambia.

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