Urgent Interventions

Gambia: Arbitrary arrest and incomunicado detention of Mr. Lamin Sylla


Paris – Geneva, 25th October 2001

Your Excellency,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT, would like to express its grave concern about the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of Mr. Mohammed Lamin Sylla, director of Amnesty International in Gambia and Secretary general of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.

According to the information received, M. Sylla was arrested on Monday 22nd October from Amnesty International Office located on 49, Garba Jahumpa Road, by 4 members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). No official reasons were given to him or to his colleagues that were present.On Tuesday 23rd October, members of the Coalition and Amnesty International went to the NIA building in order to get more information on the charges against Mr. Sylla and to visit him but they were denied access to the building on the basis that there had not been any prior notification. The officers gave them ten minutes to leave the area.

The Observatory notes that this information confirms our preoccupations, expressed in a statement submitted to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights last week, about the situation of human rights defenders in Africa. In we asked the member States of the Commission to respect their obligations as to the protection of human rights defenders and asked the Commission to adopt a regional protection mechanism on human rights defenders.

Your Excelency,

In this context, the Observatory urges you to guarantee Mr. Sylla’s physical and psychological integrity, release the information about where he is being detained and order his immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring him before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee his procedural rights at all times. Furthermore, the Observatory urges your Excellency to ensure Mr. Sylla’s rights under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, on 9 December 1998, notably Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” and article 9.3.c, which states that “[…] everyone has the right to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”.More generally, the Observatory requests that the Gambian authorities ensure the respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Gambia.Hoping that you will take these requests into consideration

Sincerely yours,

President of the FIDH Director of the OMCT