CISLAC, IFJ, NUJ call on Jonathan to intervene on human rights abuses in the Gambia

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The Amnesty International in Collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, in a joint   press briefing comprising the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, have called on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, as a beneficiary of Democracy and recognised African Leader   to intervene in the happenings in The Gambia by adding his voice in call for President Yahya Jammeh, to put an end to abuse of Rule of Law and Human Rights in his Country.    'We call on the Nigerian government to explore its strategic and influential position in Africa and the sub-region in particular to prevail on the government of Gambia to bring an end to this flagrant abuse of people's right against all known principles of democratic rule'.        

Earlier in his Address the Executive Director of CISLAC,   Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, noted with concern that most victims of enforced disappearance in The Gambia are Journalists, opposition party members or security force   personnel. Adding that on Tuesday, July 19th,2011, three Journalists and opposition party members living overseas, including   former President of The Gambia Press Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, were charged in absentia with treason in connection with the distribution of t-shirts bearing the logo ''End to Dictatorship in The Gambia'.   Four others were previously arrested in June and remain in custody in Gambia where treason carries the death penalty or 25 years imprisonment.     

Mr Rafsanjani called on The Gambian government to immediately end incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance, and investigate cases of extra judicial executions. 'Any person believed to have engaged in these illegal activities must face justice in fair trials' he declared.    

Adding that ''unlawful killings are seen as quickly getting rid of Coup plotters and other perceived enemies , especially people whom the President feel have turned against him. Torture is also regularly used in Gambia to force confessions and to punish detainees. Significant evidence has emerged in trials in recent years suggesting that people were tortured to extract confessions, raising concerns about the admissibility of evidence'.       

Similarly he called on the International community to exert the necessary pressure upon The Gambian government to 'uphold its people's rights and basic freedoms. While urging the Common Wealth to ensure 'that the Gambian people respect and protect the rights of Common Wealth citizens and foreigners resident in The Gambia.       He reassured the team that CSOs and Journalists in Nigeria will keeping providing support for such people with abuse of human rights and rule of law, 'we will not stop until Jammeh stops this madness, because instead of celebrating Freedom Day President Jammeh who marks July 22 each year as Freedom Day rules Gambia with an iron fist by a government that ruthlessly quashes all forms of dissent'.         

In a related development the President of the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, Mr Jim Boumelha, has joined the Federation of African Journalists, FAJ, The West African Journalists Association, WAJA, in condemning in the strongest terms the decision by the Gambian Government to charge Ndey Tapha Sosseh, FAJ Treasurer and former President of the Gambian Press Union (GPU) an IFJ affiliate with treason and sedition and called for all charges to be dropped.       

He noted that Sosseh was charged last Tuesday by the State prosecutors office along with three other persons, including Mathew K. Jallow, Famara Demba and the already detained former Information Minister Amadou Scattered Janneh, with conspiracy to commit treason and seditious act.       The charges alleged that on or about the 26th of May 2011 in diverse places in The Republic of The Gambia and elsewhere, they conspired to overthrow the Government of The Gambia by unlawful means and thereby committed an offence'.      

'Not only are these charges appalling, but they underscore the perilous situation faced by Journalists and Civil Society Activists in The Gambia' says Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President.       'Our colleague Ndey Tapha Sosseh has at no time committed any criminal offence and these charges are made up to destabilise and discredit not only Gambian journalists but also journalists in Africa as a whole' he stated.       

Adding that' in pressing these charges against Ndey, the Jammeh government is clearly sending a message to Gambian citizens that dissent will not be tolerated and also to journalists that check on power is off limit. The IFJ and the global community of journalists will launch the widest campaign backed by regional and international institutions and governments to protect Ndey and dispel trumped up charges' says Boumelha.       

While making his solidarity speech, the National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ , Comrade Shuaibu Leman, who represented the NUJ/WAJA National President, Mohamed Garba, said that ' NUJ sympathises with the situation of the Gambian colleagues , because their fate cannot be isolated. He noted that NUJ will raise consciousness and awareness and will appeal to President Jonathan to intervene in this gory happening in order to restore respect for the Rule of Law in The Gambia.   So that those on exile will not have suffered in vain while seeking justice for those who have lost their lives'       

Adding that it is unfortunate that a Nigerian is involved, Michael Uche, one of the Printer of the T-shirt 'must not be allowed to die in Prison'' he pleaded.       In a very emotional statement Ndey Tapha Sossey, said 'I cannot be deterred by these occurrence in an activist and a journalist I will continue to write and advocate for the freedom of my people and all those jailed incommunicado. I get my works published on Gambian websites for people to read and am grateful to my Senegalese Radio friends who continue to beam my reports on their Local Stations that are received in The Gambia in English Language and French though we pay a fee, I feel fulfilled doing this'       Sosseh narrated how her mother, though not a journalist but an activist loves writing and for this her home have been burnt severally. Not many female practice journalism in The Gambia she said as is the case in Nigeria. 'Once you mention it family members will discourage you not many have my guts I am determined to fight this course there is no going back.' She stated.  

She noted that ' when I did some reports and gave to my colleagues in the Gambia to publish, 6 of them were arrested and thrown into jail, for the same offence am being accused of now, they are still in jail alongside Uche Michael a Nigerian Printer based in The Gambia with two other Printers , their   offence being that they printed the t-shirts for me'.       

According to her two years ago when I was still serving as President I was in Nigeria to join in this a similar briefing to seek the release of thousands of Citizens ,foreigners and Gambians being held in different jails by President Jammeh, most affected are journalists.

By Joy Idam,