Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have strongly urged The Gambia government to drop charges against prominent human right activist, Madi Jobarteh, and to offer him an unconditional apology.
Mr. Jobarteh is currently charged with false information and broadcasting by the police in accordance with Section 181A (1) of the criminal code. He has been asked by the police prosecutors at the Kanifing Police Station to report at the said station at 8:30 a.m. today and he's likely to appear in court.
His arrest and subsequent charge by the police was due to his comments on the death of the late Haruna Jatta, a peaceful protester who was reportedly killed by the ECOMIG Forces that were stationed in Kanilai; Ousman Darboe who was also reportedly killed by personnel of the Anti-Crime Unit of The Gambia Police Forces and Kebba Secka, a former student of the University of The Gambia who was stabbed to death by a police officer.
John Charles Njie, chairman of Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (TANGO) who read the statement on behalf of the CSOs in the country said: "We unequivocally condemn the arrest and charge against Madi Jobarteh which we consider to be unlawful and a violation of his rights and freedom as guaranteed by the 1997 constitution."
He added: "This is not only an attack on Madi and others but an attack on all of us. It's an attack on our fundamental rights of expression, an attack on our democracy with the only aim to silence and intimidate critics. Today, we say "enough is enough". This is one arrest out of too many and we have reached our limit. We therefore call on all Gambians home and abroad to decide that "enough is enough" because it may be you some other time."
In light of the above, he added, The Gambia Civil Society Organisations urge the state to refrain from inviting citizens to question them about their opinions or remarks so long as those opinions do not constitute incitement to violence and hate speech. They also requested that the police always act within the law and with professionalism when dealing with citizens and non-citizens in the country among others.
"We are confident that Mr. Jobarteh's comments as stated in the interview fall well within his constitutional and fundamental human rights of freedom of speech and expression. We find it unacceptable that the Gambia Police Force under our current democratic dispensation would have the audacity to arrest and intimidate any citizens or anyone for that for legitimately criticizing any organ or agency of the state at a protest."
Ousman Yarboe, the director of TANGO, recalled that President Adama Barrow promised the international community that "never again in this country of ours we will have torture, arrest people because of their opinions or take people to the "five star hotel" among others".
"I think it was on the basis that the international community pledged to support The Gambia. I was asked to speak and that was the time I and others introduced the "Never Again slogan".
"I am surprised that after 22 years of hard work by these individuals who fought for justice who made sure that The Gambia is free, are getting into the same scenario. However, unfortunately the Never Again is here to stay."
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