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Gambia
29.10.12
Urgent Interventions

Death threats against journalists Abubacarr Saidykhan and Babucarr Ceesay

URGENTAPPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY


New information
GMB 001 / 0912 / OBS 085.1
Death threats /
Drop of charges
The Gambia
October 29, 2012

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in TheGambia.

New information:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources of death threats targetingtwo journalists, Messrs. AbubacarrSaidykhan, a freelance journalist who often investigates and reports oncases of human rights violations, and BabucarrCeesay, First Vice-President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU)[1].

Accordingto the information received, on October 25, 2012, Messrs. Abubacarr Saidykhanand Babucarr Ceesay both received an email containing violent death threatssigned by self-denominated “MofalaJato and his team of patriotic killers”. The email thus read: “It isleft to you to make a choice. You choose to live or die. […] You […] want todestroy the image of the APRC[2] Government and [the] PresidentYahya Jammeh. You think that you can apply for permit to bring the Tunisian,Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Libya situation here. I will come with my team ofpatriotic killers who kill for the love of our country and our president. Thepolice are not the best guys to deal with you. [...] I know that you aredealing with Gambian dissidents abroad, but you will not survive it at all.[...] We will get all of you and slaughter you like Tobaski Rams. We will comefor you without any further information. [...]”. The said Mr. Mofala Jato also mentioned that he knew whereMessrs. Saidykhan and Ceesay's respective homes were located. A complaint wasfiled at the Kairaba police station, for an urgent investigation.

Thesedeath threats intervene less than two months after Messrs. Abubacarr Saidykhanand Babucarr Ceesay were arbitrarily arrested, on September 6, and detained forseven days before being released on bail with a criminal case opened against them.The two journalists were charged of “conspiracy to commit felony”, “seditiousintention” and “incitement to violence” after they had planned to lead ademonstration against the executions of death-row detainees. On October 23, theAttorney General and the Minister of Justice announced that the charges hadbeen dropped during a meeting held with the two journalists.

TheObservatory welcomes the dismissal of the charges and thanks all the persons,institutions and organisations who intervened in their favour. However, theObservatory remains deeply concerned for the safety of the two journalists andurges the judicial authorities to take the required legal actions.

Background information:

Inthe afternoon of September 6, 2012, Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan were invitedto the police headquarters in Banjul to allegedly collect a permit they hadsolicited in the morning of the same day after they submitted a request to theoffice of the Inspector General of police to organisea peaceful protest against the execution of nine death-row detainees in August[3]. However, both were arrested uponarrival at the police station and kept in custody, without any explanationgiven to them.

Messrs.Ceesay and Saidykhan spent four days in detention, during which they werereportedly separated, transferred to a different police station every night andintensively interrogated. In addition, the police escorted them to their housesto conduct a search. On September 7, 2012, the executive members of the GPU aswell as their lawyer were denied access to visit them.

OnSeptember 10, 2012, Messrs. Ceesay and Saidykhan, were released on bail aftersigning a bond of GMD 250,000 (approximately 6,300 Euros). They were furtherrequired to report weekly to the police headquarters. They remained charged with “conspiracy to commit felony”,“incitement to violence” and “seditious intention”.

OnOctober 8, 2012 in the morning, Messrs. Saidykhan and Ceesay reported at the policeheadquarters in Banjul in order to ask what the police intended to do with thecase opened against them. However, they could not obtain any answer, as thepolice informed them that the Interpol officer and another inspector in chargeof their case would not be available during the two following days, so thatthey would have to report again to the police station on October 12, 2012.

Actions requested:

Pleasewrite to the Gambian authorities and ask them to:

i.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs.Babucarr Ceesay and Abubacarr Saidykhan and, more generally, of all humanrights defenders in the Gambia;

ii.Order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioneddeath threats against Messrs. Abubacarr Saidykhan and Babucarr Ceesay and applythe penal sanctions provided by the law to those held responsible for thoseacts;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level –against Messrs. Abubacarr Saidykhan and Babucarr Ceesay and as well as againstall human rights defenders and their organisations in the Gambia;

iv.Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, and inparticular:

- - Article 1, which states that“everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promotethe protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at thenational and international levels”,

- - and Article 12.2 which provides that“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by thecompetent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others,against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adversediscrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of hisor her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the presentDeclaration”.

v.Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedomsin accordance with international human rights standards and internationalinstruments ratified by the Gambia.

Addresses:

· Captain (retd.) Alhaji Yahya A. J.J. Jammeh, President and Minister of Defence, Office of the President, StateHouse, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. Fax: +220 4227 034. Email: info@statehouse.gm.

· Mr. Lamin A. M. S. Jobarteh,Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Department of State for Justice,Marina Parade, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia. Fax: +220 4229 908

· Mr. Ousman Sonko, Minister of theInterior, Office of the President, State House, Banjul, Republic of The Gambia.Fax: +220 4223 718

· Ambassador Mr. Ousman Badjie,Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the United Nations in Geneva, c/o Embassy ofthe Republic of the Gambia, 117, rue Saint Lazare, 75008 Paris, France. Fax:+33 1 53 04 05 99. Email: ambgambia_france117@hotmail.com

Pleasealso write to the diplomatic representations of the Gambia in your respectivecountries.

***

Paris-Geneva,October 29, 2012

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of HumanRights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Email:Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 2518 / 01 43 55 18 80
  • Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39/ 41 22 809 49 29

[1] Among theGPU's aims are the promotion and defence of the rights to freedom of expressionand of information.

[2] APRC stands for the Alliance forPatriotic Reorientation and Construction, the political party currentlygoverning in the Gambia.

[3] See FIDH andWorld Coalition Against The Death Penalty (WCADP) Joint Press Release, August31, 2012, available at: http://www.fidh.org/FIDH-and-the-World-Coalition.

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