By Sanna Camara
A new civil society coalition calling itself Waatoh Seeta (Mandinkq for ‘Time is up’) has called upon the international community to hold the Gambia Government accountable for gross human rights violations against the country’s citizens.
The coalition, which brings together several other civil society oraqnisqtions such qs Coalition for Change Gambia, the National Transitional Council of The Gambia, among others, believes ”The Gambia must be pressured to live up to its international commitments, including giving Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations unfettered access to all detention centers.”
Below is the full text of their press release issued in Dakar today;
“Xam sa waref, defko”
November 11, 2014
A coalition of dissidents highlights rights violations by Gambian regime and calls for action
Waato Seeta, a loose coalition of Gambian dissidents converging in Dakar, Senegal, has condemned the Gambia Government’s continued violations of human rights and its disregard of the country’s international obligations.
The refusal of the Gambia Government to allow two United Nations Special rapporteurs to complete torture and killing investigations earlier this month during the first visit ever to the country underscores the true character of the regime. As if to add insult to injury, the perennial practices of arrests without warrants, and disappearance without trace continued even while the UN experts visited.
On November 4, 2014 Sait Matty Jaw, a young Gambian resident at New Jeshwang, was arrested and detained along with Seth Kande, a Ghanaian, and one Mr. Femi, a Nigerian national. According to news reports, they have been detained at the Headquarters of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul without appearing in any court of law. This runs contrary to the Gambian constitution and a recent statement by the Minister of Justice, Basirou Mahoney, during the Universal Periodic Review of the Gambia in Geneva last month. Mr. Mahoney asserted that the Gambia is “totally” committed to respecting the 72-hour detention without charge limit as mandated by the Gambian constitution.
Also, people who speak out against human rights abuses, including political dissidents, are persecuted by security agents in The Gambia and in other countries to prevent them from exposing atrocities of the Jammeh regime.
Waatoh Seeta calls upon the international community to hold the Gambia Government accountable for gross human rights violations against the country’s citizens. The Gambia must be pressured to live up to its international commitments, including giving Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations unfettered access to all detention centers.
The group concurs with the conclusion reached on Friday, November 7, 2014 by the UN rapporteurs that “[d]ue to denial of access to the Security Wing of Mile 2 Prison to visit those sentenced to lengthy sentences, including the death penalty, an inference must be drawn that there is something important to hide.” In fact, the Gambia has one of the worst prisons in the world as conditions fall far short of universal minimum standards set by the United Nations.
Waato Seeta considers the continued detention of Sait Matty Jaw and others illegal, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. The group expresses utmost concern for the safety of the three individuals who still remain in NIA custody seven days after being picked up by state security agents.
Finally, Waato Seeta calls on the international community and Gambians of conscience to say enough is enough and stand up against injustice in The Gambia. The time to stand up and speak is now.