Saturday, 28 November 2009
In his traditional address to the nation on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Tobaski or Banna Salo, President Jammeh has said that the family in The Gambia has “degenerated seriously” and that on such an occasion Gambians should find time to think about how to restore it. President Jammeh also had another volley of diatribes against businessmen for engaging “in greedy profiteering” during Muslim feasts even though most of them call themselves Muslims. Appearing on shots played by state media on the evening of Friday, President Jammeh appeared tense and unsteady as he read from a script. This says an observer, may be because he has been warned to strictly read from the text and avoid words that may invite further trouble. Mr. Jammeh is known to be loose cannon that can throw out regrettable words that are likely to attract international criticism. It was in a previous Muslim feast, two months ago that Jammeh threatened to kill human rights defenders who try to “destabilize” his country.
The delegates at the 46th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Right held in Banjul from 11-25 November 2009 have observed that despite some progress made in the past, the overall human rights record in Africa is still poor.
They noted with regret that many African countries continued to violate the rights of their own people.
According to the delegates, the deteriorating human rights situation in many African countries has negatively impacted on the life of women and children.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the 46th Ordinary Session, delegates highlighted that climate change is another disturbing threat to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent
Among the resolutions adopted by the Commission are the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on prisons and places of detention in Africa, resolutions on the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on refugees, asylum seekers, internally-displaced persons and migrants in Africa.
It also adopted a resolution on the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa, appointment of the Chairperson of the working group on older persons, Resolution on Climate Change and Human Rights and the need to study its impacts in Africa, Resolution on the Impact of Global Financial Crisis on the Enjoyment of Social and Economic Rights in Africa and MOU between the Community Law Centre of the University of Western Cape, South Africa and the African Commission.
The Commission has decided to hold its 47th Ordinary Session from 12 to 26 May 2010 in Tunis, the Republic of Tunia.
It has also adopted its 27th Activity Report, which will be submitted at the 16th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and 15th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union, scheduled to take place in January 2010, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This year's session was attended by sixty-seven delegates, representing twenty-one states parties, seven National Human Rights Institutions, eight International and Inter-Governmental Organisations and forty-one African and International NGOs. Altogether 286 delegates had participated in the session.
The Commission often holds two Ordinary Sessions in a year: May and November. The sessions are always occasions for state parties, Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) to interact and look at the overall human rights situation on the continent.
The Commission has this time around elected Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou from Togo as its new Chairperson.
Friday, 27 November 2009
A Message from Mr. Ousainou Darboe, Secretary General and Party Leader of the United Democratic Party on the Occasion of the Celebration of the Feast of Eid El Adha (Tobaski), Friday, 27th November, 2009
My Gambian Compatriots,
As we celebrate the Moslem feast of Eid El Adha, I would like once again as Secretary General and Party Leader of the United Democratic Party, to extend to all of you as well as those living among us, my warmest greetings on this auspicious occasion.
This feast is in celebration of an event that took place many centuries ago. It is the remembrance of a deed of sacrifice and total acceptance of the will of Allah by Abraham who believed that there is one God and in absolute abnegation, he did Allah’s will. We commemorate it therefore in emulation of this great deed of Abraham.
As we celebrate the Tobaski, let us remember all those who in the past have been with us, and who for some years now have not celebrated the feast with their families, friends and colleagues. We must particularly remember Chief Ebrima Manneh, the journalist and Kanyiba Kanyi, the UDP Eastern Kombo Constituency Secretary, who was abducted by security agents of the Government on 18th October, 2006. Both men have not been seen or heard of since their abduction.
For the past few years the average family in Gambia has found it more and more difficult to save enough money to buy the traditional sacrificial sheep. This year is even more difficult as all indications are that many families will no doubt go without making the sacrifice. The difficulties that we all face, with the escalating prices of essential commodities and products and services in the country, have reached alarming proportions.
The global financial crisis has also exacerbated the situation. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters living and working overseas who have regularly been remitting funds for sustenance of their parents and loved ones in these difficult times, also have their fair share of the problems in catering for the usual necessities like Tobaski here at home. May Allah guide and protect them wherever they are in their legitimate endeavours for without them, things would be really grim and intolerable for most families.
I wish to take this opportunity to pray that Allah the Almighty will grant us all, in His limitless bounty, the Tobaski we need for ourselves and our families. On this holy day, may Allah the Almighty grant us the prayers that we make for ourselves, our families and our country and grant the leaders of this country the empathy that He granted Abraham Alaihi Salam and his great grandson Mohamadou Rasoululahi PBH.
I wish you all a pleasant Tobaski. Salamu Allaikum Warahmatu lahi wa barakatuhu
Banjul, The Gambia
27th November, 2009
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
P.O. Box 30155 • Bethesda, Maryland 20824 • 202 629-3385 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.freedom- now.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
United Nations Declares Gambia’s Detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh a Violation of International Law, Calls for Immediate Release
Washington, D.C., November 18, 2009 – In response to a petition filed by attorneys from Freedom Now and Hogan & Hartson LLP, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an opinion affirming that the arrest and continued detention by the Gambian government of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a senior reporter for the Gambian newspaper, Daily Observer, are without legal justification and in violation of international law. In its decision, the UN called for the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.
Freedom Now Chair Jeremy Zucker stated: “We are strongly encouraged that the Working Group has issued a clear and direct opinion in support of Mr. Manneh. We urge the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.”
On July 7, 2006, two plainclothes agents of Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency arrested Manneh in the Daily Observer’s Banjul office. The agents did not inform Mr. Manneh of the reason for his arrest; whatever the reason, it was clear that he was detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Mr. Manneh has not been charged with a crime nor given a trial. Instead, he remains imprisoned incommunicado, while the Gambian government disavows his arrest and detainment.
Reports from Gambia indicate that Mr. Manneh may be subject to deeply inhumane treatment while in detention. According to the U.S. State Department, Gambian security forces have used various forms of physical and mental torture against Gambian political prisoners. In addition, Mr. Manneh has suffered serious health problems during his detention yet has generally been denied access to medical care.
The UN decision is the latest in a growing number of demands for Mr. Manneh’s release. Last year, the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared that Mr. Manneh’s detention violates international law. The Court demanded that Gambia release Mr. Manneh and pay damages to his relatives. U.S. Senators Durbin, Feingold, Casey, Murray, Lieberman and Kennedy echoed these demands in an April 22, 2009 open letter to Gambian President Jammeh. The Committee to Protect Journalists also has called for Manneh’s release. To date, the Gambian government has ignored these demands.
In response to the UN decision, Senator Durbin, the Assistant Majority Leader, stated: “This judgment by the United Nations adds a new and important voice to the growing chorus of those calling for the immediate release of Chief Ebrima Manneh who, for three long years, has been held incommunicado and without charge or trial. The UN’s judgment is more than a powerful rebuke of the Gambia government; it is a warning to all regimes holding political prisoners without cause. Freedom Now and the Committee to Protect Journalists should be commended for their tireless work, not only on behalf of Mr. Manneh, but for thousands of political prisoners languishing in prisons across the globe.”
Senator Russ Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, stated: “I am deeply troubled that Chief Manneh remains in detention incommunicado and without trial.
The UN Working Group has affirmed that this is a violation of the most basic human rights. If the Gambian government does not immediately release Manneh or provide information about his
whereabouts, the international community should take action to make clear this is unacceptable.”
Freedom Now, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to free prisoners of conscience, and Hogan & Hartson, an international law firm, welcome the UN’s decision. They call on the Gambian government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.
Contacts: Jeremy Zucker 202.468.4648 / Erica Mintzer: 703.623.8767. Source: thegambiaecho.com
Sunday, 15 November 2009
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Madam Faith Pansy Tlakula, has called on the government of The Gambia to immediately decriminalize all repressive media laws in order to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the country.
Madam Faith Pansy Tlakula made the statement on Saturday during the 46th Ordinary Session of the Commission, which kicked off in the Gambian coastal city of Brufut on Wednesday, November 11, 2009. She said the current media situation in the Gambia is unacceptable, and therefore urged Yahya Jammeh's government to repeal repressive laws and respect 'Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights'.
Tlakula also told the session that she had sent three letters to president Jammeh in June concerning the deterioration of press freedom in the country. In one of the letters, she said, president Jammeh's attention was drawn to the arrest and detention of 7 Gambian journalists, which seriously threatened free speech and undermined the Universal Declaration on human rights in Gambia. The concern of the lone female detainee and a nursing mother of a seven month old baby, Sarata Janneh-Dibba was raised in the letter,Tlakula told the session.
Ms Pansy Tlakula also asked president Jammeh in one of the letters, to withdraw threats made against Imam Baba Leigh, who happened to differ in opinion on the sensitive issue of female circumcision.
According to the Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, a letter of appreciation was also sent to the Gambian leader after he had set the journalists free through a presidential pardon.
Although the Commission had asked the African Union to "authorize and provide extra-budgetary resources to the African Commission to ensure that the 46th Ordinary Session is convened and held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or any other Member State of the African Union, in the event that [president Yahya Jammeh] does not withdraw his threats and the Government cannot guarantee the safety and security of the members and staff of the African Commission and the participants of the 46th Ordinary Session", president Jammeh never withdrew his threats. Click here to read the Commission's Resolution on Gambia, done in Dakar, Senegal, from October 5-11, 2009.
A day after the session opened in Brufut, the West African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Leo Igwe, brought the attention of the Commission to human rights violations in the Gambia when "government agents and some witch doctors from Guinea raided villages and homes, abducted hundreds of mainly elderly persons alleged to be witches and wizards, took them to some secret locations where they were tortured and forced to drink magical concoctions. Some died after taking the magical substance, while others developed severe health complications". Below is his entire statement in verbatim:
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) would like to draw the attention of the Commission to gross human rights violations that are committed because of fear of witchcraft across the region.
In Africa , the belief in witchcraft is strong, common and widespread. Over the years, claims of witchcraft have been used to abuse the universally recognized human rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. In many African countries, to call somebody a witch automatically makes the person unqualified for human rights protection. To accuse somebody of witchcraft is like passing a death sentence on that person. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, persecuted and killed. They are subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by gangs, mobs, pastors, witch doctors, parents and family members in the name of exorcism or to elicit confessions. Those alleged to be witches and wizards are victims of jungle justice, extrajudicial killing, forced exile and disappearance.
In Africa those abused in the name of witchcraft are mainly the vulnerable members of the population—the poor, the elderly, women, children and people with disabilities.
IHEU has received reports of witchcraft related human rights abuses in many countries across the region.
In the Gambia, government agents and some witch doctors from Guinea raided villages and homes, abducted hundreds of mainly elderly persons alleged to be witches and wizards, took them to some secret locations where they were tortured and forced to drink magical concoctions. Some died after taking the magical substance, while others developed severe health complications. This state-sponsored witch hunt is in breach of Gambia 's human rights obligations under the African Charter.
In Malawi a magistrate's court has convicted two people for practicing witchcraft. In October, Emily (62) and James Kunjes (68) were sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour for killing two members of their community through magic. In Kenya, at least 15 women suspected to be witches were killed last year in a deadly witch hunt that occurred in some parts of the country. Relatives of those alleged to be witches and wizards continue to live in fear.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of children alleged to be witches and wizards have been driven out of their homes and forced to roam the streets.
And in Nigeria, in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, children accused of witchcraft are abandoned, beaten, slashed with knives, bathed with acid or lynched by parents, family and community members. Some of these so called child witches are chained and starved, some have been tortured to death by unscrupulous pastors during deliverance ceremonies. Also human rights activists working to defend the rights of those accused of witchcraft have been at risk. They have suffered attacks, threats, intimidation and harassment. In July, agents of a self-proclaimed witch exorcist and founder of the Liberty Gospel Church, Helen Ukpabio, raided a centre for the rehabilitation of child victims in Eket in Akwa Ibom state. They attacked the organizers of a child rights conference in Calabar in Cross River state.
In Ghana, women accused of witchcraft are attacked, persecuted and killed. Some of them fleeing persecution have taken refuge at a camp in Gambaga in the Northern Region. Those alleged to be witches and wizards suffer similar fates in Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia etc.The witch hunts in many African countries are not isolated attacks but an organized campaign, a silent and systematic elimination of anybody alleged to be a witch or a wizard.
IHEU calls on the Commission to issue a resolution condemning witch hunts and witchcraft related human rights abuses in Africa. IHEU requests the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Women in Africa, on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally displaced Persons in Africa, on Human Rights Defenders in Africa to raise issues concerning witchcraft related abuses with state parties during their promotional missions.
IHEU calls on the governments of the Gambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to fulfill their commitments under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights by improving the quality of education, law enforcement and the justice system.
IHEU urges all state parties to take all necessary legal and administrative measures to combat all human rights abuses that are committed in the name of witch hunts. Source: Senegambianews.com