Tuesday, 26 February 2013 23:19(Column) – The continuous arrest and detention of people in the Gambia should be a cause for concern to everyone.
The sun hardly rises from the east and sets in the west without someone being arrested and detained for one reason or another for prolong periods without charge or being told the reasons for their arrest.
No one seems to be safe. Even religious leaders are now kidnapped and detained at secret detention centres, far away from their families and congregations.
And the fact that these daily arrests and detentions are done by the state itself, makes it even more worrying. It also raises very serious questions about what directions the Gambia, a so-called ‘democratic country’ and the Smiling Coast of Africa is heading to under the leadership of Yahya Jammeh and his government.
A few days ago, while reading the online Gambian papers, I saw an article in the American Street News regarding the arrest, detention and alleged torture of Alhagie Jobe, deputy editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer.
Mr Jobe was said to have been arrested at the beginning of this month by NIA officers with fictitious publications of the Daily Observer, which were intended to help an unnamed asylum seeker in the West. He is still detained incommunicado without charge and is reported to have been subjected to severe torture by the NIA officers which include beatings.
I have known Mr Jobe for many years as a respectful, friendly and hardworking man, who is always ready to put his neck on the line for his friends and family. And while he may not attract much sympathy from the Gambian public because of his position or conduct as deputy editor of the Daily Observer, I will speak out against his continuous detention.
As a journalist, I believe that all Gambian journalists irrespective of which media houses we work for belongs to the same family and an attack on one journalist or media house is an attack on all of us.
If NIA officers truly believe that Alhagie Jobe has committed a crime, then they should charge him and take him to court. But by deciding to detain and torture him, the NIA is breaking the law. The agency is taking the role of prosecutor and executor at the same time. What happens to the principle of being innocent until proven guilty?
The continuous detention incommunicado of Mr Jobe by the NIA without charged or being told the reason (s) for his arrest is criminal, unacceptable and a breach of his human rights.
Mr Jobe’s rights and freedoms are clearly guaranteed in the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia. The NIA is created by an act of Parliament and must respect the laws of the country without any ifs or buts.
Arbitrary arrest and detention is unlawful under Gambian law and we have to speak out against it.
The protection of our personal liberties is guaranteed by the constitution. Section 19 (1) states that every person shall have the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary, arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.
It further states in Section 19 (2) that any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case within three hours, in a language that he or she can understands, of the reasons for his or her arrest or detention and of his or her right to consult a legal practitioner.
To further makes things clear, the constitution stated in Section 19 (3) that any person who is arrested or detained- (a) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of the order of a court, or (b) upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the Laws of The Gambia, and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and, in any event, within seventy-two hours.
These inherent rights are clearly spelt out and the fact that our government have over the years decided to completely disrespect this rights shows its total contempt to the Gambian people. What is happening in the Gambia is wrong and remaining silent about it will not make it right.
The more we remain silent just because we want to be in the good books of Jammeh, the more we are all likely to be victims of his brutal regime either directly or indirectly. Just take the case of Alhajie Jobe as a good example.
You can follow me on Twitter @pkjarju
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