Madi Jobarteh

(JollofNews) – For the past two weeks Baboucarr Nani Sey has been reporting to the police every two days. No reason has been given to him as to why he should do that.

Meantime his file is said to be with the police prosecution pending advice from the AG’s Chambers. If that is the case, what then is the value of this man reporting to Serre Kunda Police Station every other day? Is he reporting to the police because he is going to flee the country or is he reporting because he poses a threat to society? How does a man reporting to the police every two days serve the purpose of justice?

Baboucarr was first arrested on June 9 and detained until June 11 for a matter that took place at least three weeks earlier. That was when he chaired a press conference as part of a peaceful public gathering on May 15 to highlight the issue of a piece of land in Kololi in the interest of the public. After initially being detained and then bailed Baboucarr was charged with four so-called offences, i.e. conspiracy to commit felony, assembly without seeking police permit, destruction of private property and unlawful use of banners. Media reports say these charges were later dropped to only one, i.e. ‘illegal gathering without a permit’. However since June 15 Baboucarr has been reporting to the police every two days. Why?

Mr. Minister, the mere fact that Baboucarr is charged and not taken to court but asked to report to the police constantly is a violation of his freedom. This is a clear manifestation of police harassment of a citizen. By asking him to report to the police, Baboucarr is being forced to incur costs for nothing. His money, work and time are being wasted while his peace of mind tormented hence this tantamount to inflicting psychological torture on him. Such a practice of subjecting a citizen to this insidious form of control is characteristic of only dictatorships that must have stopped since this government took power on 19 January 2017. Citizens who damage the law must be charged and tried immediately but not inconvenienced through such control mechanisms.

The mere fact that the man is subjected to such unbearable harassment clearly shows the police have no case against him because the man has done nothing wrong. That means the police do not know what to do with this matter because there is nothing to do with the matter other than to free Baboucarr. Therefore the police are themselves acting outside of the law for that matter. This also means Baboucarr is now within his rights to sue the State and the IGP for unlawful arrest, detention and harassment thus constituting a violation of the Constitution as per Section 5(b) or be compensated as per Section 19(6) of our Constitution.

That aside, the case against Baboucarr raises a fundamental legal, moral and political question for all Gambians. To me, Baboucarr’s case speaks to the heart of democracy and sovereignty and the very basis of the change we achieved on December 1. The right to assemble and to demonstrate peacefully is an entrenched right in our constitution [(Section 25(d)]. This was what Baboucarr did to highlight how land that belongs to the people was confiscated by Yaya Jammeh only for KMC to then sell that land to a private enterprise. Neither KMC nor the private company was asked questions, but the person who raised the issue got arrested and subjected to harassment.

Baboucarr’s case brings to the forefront the case of Solo Sandeng and his compatriots, and the case of Ousainou Darboe and the UDP leadership and well before these two, it also brings to the front the case of Femi Peters in 2009. Today all Gambians celebrate Solo Sandeng and defend him for engaging in a peaceful protest on 14 April 2016. Two days later, Ousainou Darboe led his party members to march on the streets only to be arrested and sentenced for holding a procession without permit and unlawful assembly among others. In their defense they proclaimed the right to peaceful protest in our constitution as a hallmark of democracy.

Earlier in 2010 when Femi Peters was illegally sent to prison for the same offences in the Public Order Act, the UDP under the same distinguished lawyer Ousainou Darboe challenged the constitutionality of the Act in the Supreme Court. During the trial Lawyer Darboe likened Mr. Peters to Nelson Mandela who was also imprisoned by the application of the same unjust laws. Darboe described the Public Order Act as colonial and saying that if Peters were sentenced because of that law then the court would be perpetuating colonial legacy. Yet in 2017, a Gambian is once again facing the same law. Why? Where is our morality? Where is the legality?

Thus from a moral and political standpoint if Baboucarr Nani Sey is not freed immediately then it means this new government of which you are the chief legal adviser and the Attorney General would be perpetuating colonialism in the Gambia. If this persecution of Baboucarr continues then it means we are saying that the imprisonment of Femi Peters and Ousainou Darboe and all the rest of our compatriots in July 2017 were justified. It means we are saying the April 14 protest by Solo Sandeng was illegal. This is the moral and political question that Baboucarr pose to all of us as citizens.

Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambedou

Let us remember that the Coalition stated in their MoU and Manifesto that they would repeal all laws that are unconstitutional and impede human rights. We commend the Government for having conceded that sedition is unconstitutional a few weeks ago. But for this government to show that indeed they understand and mean what they say about system change, then the Public Order Act must be disregarded and all efforts made to repeal it immediately.

The Public Order Act and Sedition are colonial laws found in all former British colonies. While many countries have abolished these laws others have not yet done so. For example the Gambia and Nigeria are yet to abolish the Public Order Act. But in Uganda, the Constitutional Court declared sedition unconstitutional and undemocratic in 2010 as the Gambia also did in 2017.

In light of the foregoing, I wish to put it to you that the sovereign rights of Baboucarr and all Gambians for that matter are being violated with impunity if this man remains under State harassment. The continued seizing of Baboucarr over this matter threatens the rights of each and every Gambian. The heart of democracy and good governance is the right and ability of citizens to freedom of expression, freedom of association, right to assemble and the right to demonstrate peacefully. Any law or government that seeks to limit or take away these four freedoms in anyway means dictatorship.

If this matter goes any further then it means we have eroded all of the gains we have fought for over the years until today. Conscience and the law dictate that Baboucarr be set free and all charges against him be dropped. To make him to continue reporting to the police is harassment and abuse of his rights.