Friday, 19 March 2010

US Senators deplore Gambia’s democracy

As they push for inquiry into Chief Manneh’s case
If you have any hand in the disappearance of Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh or for some other reason you are against the widely sought after resolution of the continued detention of the journalist by the Gambian authorities, you have every reason to worry, because calls for justice for his horrific ordeal remain unabated.
Five (5) United States senators, headed by Dick Durbin, have joined calls by the international community for the case of the disappeared journalist to be resolved. They specifically called on the Commonwealth to mount an investigation on the continued disappearance of the journalist.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader, Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), who has had long term interest in the Chief Manneh case, last Thursday, addressed the letter to the Commonwealth of Nations Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, urging him to launch an investigation into the case of the Gambian journalist, who has been held incommunicado and without charge for almost four years. In the letter, senators did not only condemn the unconstitutionality of the treatment of the disappeared journalist, but they also deplored in strong terms the ‘‘poor’’ and ‘deteriorating’ political and human rights situation in the country.
“Mr Manneh’s disappearance and the Gambian Government’s ongoing refusal to account for his whereabouts are in direct contradiction of the strong human rights standards embraced by the Commonwealth,” Durbin wrote. And he added, “Undoubtedly many members of the Commonwealth also share our concern about the deteriorating political and human rights situation in the Gambia, an issue you raised at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you investigate Mr. Manneh’s disappearance and press Gambian President Jammeh not only for his immediate release, but also to reverse the Gambia’s poor human rights record.”
Chief Ebrima Manneh was reportedly detained in July 2006, after he was reported to have been engaging in anti-Yahya Jammeh activities. His colleagues were present when he was picked up by plainclothes officers from the feared Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA). As a way of keeping him away from public view, to back up the authorities’ claim of lack of knowledge about his whereabouts, Chief is believed to have been transported to various detention facilities across the country since his arrest.
However, several eye witnesses have in the past claimed to have sighted him at various places, including Fatoto Police Station, at the extreme end of the Gambia. He has also been spotted at Mile Two Prison.
In July 2007, Manneh was also reportedly escorted by members of the Gambian Police Intervention Unit to the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul for high blood pressure treatment. He has not been seen since then.
There have been numerous calls at both local and international level, including both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice and the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for his release. But all that appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
While the government denies ever arresting him, fear of his possible murder increases by the day.
US Senator Durbin, Chairman on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law, is among prominent individuals who have been pressing for Chief Manneh’s release for over two years. His Thursday’s letter to the Commonwealth Secretary General was co-signed by four other prominent US senators - Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA), Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

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