By Team Gom Sa Bopa
Since President Adama Barrow’s statement threatening to re-arrest his critics even after being granted bail by a judge in late September 2023, people have been arrested and harassed for no justifiable reason whatsoever.
Madi Jobarteh is the latest critic who was arrested this morning 9th October 2023 after Police questioned him at his house on Friday. Since Police visited Madi on Friday he has been resisting the illegal arrest and questioning which Police say is because of his “Facebook post” but failed to identify the actual Facebook Post.
After stalking him, his family members and neighbours over the weekend, Police finally arrested him on Monday even though Madi had stated that he was not feeling well for most of the last week.
Another critic who has been re-arrested is Alhagie Bora of Kerr Fatou. He was allegedly arrested and detained for over 3 days without any charges being levelled against him and without access to his loved ones and Lawyer. We believe this to be a case of enforced disappearance which was a hallmark of the previous administration.
Another arrested individual who has been charged for interfering with a witness is Journalist Mankajang who was working on uncovering the shooting of two Police Officers. He was arrested and eventually charged for doing lawful work as a journalist working on a case which had not been brought forward to any court.
Given all these incidents, The Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission has issued a statement condemning the President’s threats to re-arrest his critics which it says “have the potential to undermine the democratic progress made by our country since 2017”.
The Gambia Bar Association has also released a statement highlighting that President Barrow’s statement undermines the Judiciary and that “the practice of re-arresting individuals released on bail or discharged by the courts is a legacy of the Jammeh era and is an abuse of power as well as a contempt for judicial authority”.
It’s now clear that the President has not only ignored the warnings from the Human Rights Commission and the Gambia Bar Association but is going full steam ahead to re-arrest his critics.
The Gambia Press Union have also released a statement highlighting that the President’s statement and subsequent arrests are a direct threat to press freedom, freedom of expression and the country’s fledgling democracy.
Given the history of Dictatorship which the Gambia has been through and the findings of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, our movement Gom Sa Bopa is calling on all citizens and residents of the Gambia who believe in the rule of law to be prepared to resist any attempts to plunge our country back into Dictatorship. We say #NeverAgain to unwarranted arrests of citizens for freely expressing themselves and call every single individual to action.
In the same vein, we remind the government to urgently implement the following TRRC Recommendations which it accepted back in 2021:
TRRC Volume 7: Attack on the Media and Freedom of Expression
- Take all necessary steps to ensure that all journalists are able to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of arrest, detention, intimidation, or harassment.
- Provide comprehensive training and reform of the security sector to understand journalism and the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic government.
- Reform the Criminal Code to fully protect media freedom and freedom of expression, in particular by decriminalising sedition and defamation, ensuring that individuals’ reputational interests can only be safeguarded through civil litigation, in conformity with international human rights law.
- Protect the right to freedom of expression by repealing the Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act.
TRRC Volume 15 on Judiciary:
- The government should undertake to at all times respect the Constitutional provisions on judicial independence and the principles of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution of The Gambia.
- The government should review the law on refusal to obey court orders by public officials with a view to putting in place a more stringent regime that would ensure compliance.