Barrow Administration must condemn police brutality

Friday, November 16, 2018

Team Gom Sa Borpa; a youth Movement dedicated to raising awareness and participation among young people through Art and arousing their interest in the development of The Gambia says Police bullying, brutality and abuse have once again reared its ugly head in The Gambia and president Adama Barrow and his administration must condemn it.

The movement also said the new government must uphold the promises it made to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, saying some weeks ago, youth activist and musician, Ali Cham (aka Killa Ace), was profiled, searched without a warrant, or due cause, intimidated, beaten up, arrested and falsely charged.

“I was deliberately targeted by the officers that assaulted me, because they came straight for me in the public place for no apparent reason.  I was assaulted, arrested and now I am being charged with ridiculous infractions that are laughable.  This is clearly designed to intimidate me, and stop me from speaking up against corruption and poor governance in this country.  But I will not be intimidated,” Killa Ace said.

  The youth activist was charged with assaulting a police officer and attempting to commit suicide under custody.  The charge for attempting to commit suicide was not mentioned in court instead it was replaced by a breach of peace charge.  He has denied all charges. Human rights defenders worry that the recently acquired culture of democracy and freedom post Jammeh dictatorship is rapidly being rolled back, as the Barrow administration has reneged on commitments made towards legislative reforms, which include the repealing of draconian laws, as well as rolling out much needed security sector reforms. 

“The assault on Killa Ace must be strongly condemned by the government, failure of which Barrow will be sending the signal that he is no different from Jammeh’s dictatorship, which was responsible for the most heinous acts of rights abuses, these was the very forms of assault, abuse and rights of innocent citizens with impunity we are witnessing currently” said a representative of Right to Know (R2K) Gambia.

The Movement said this is not the first time the police have assaulted on civilians, nor is it the first time that outspoken members of civil society have been targeted by the Barrow administration through the security apparatus. 

On January 30, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a lecturer and public commentator was arrested for speaking out about the fragility of the security sector in the country.  He was not charged, but was released after pressure was brought to bear on the authorities. Gambian CSOs and TANGO issued an eleven point resolution condemning the growing trend of abuse and police brutality under the Barrow administration on February 1, which  demands  that all officers responsible for the arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention of Dr. Ceesay and any infringements on the rights of citizens to be held to account. 

“This statement was made nine months ago, and to date, those responsible for the continued and systematic intimidation and rights abuses are left unpunished,” the Movement stated.

 It said Dr. Ceesay was the first victim of abuse by the Barrow administration and last month, police arrested Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh, another prominent human rights activist and environmentalist, slapped him with fictitious and frivolous charges, which he denied. The case is currently in court. “Killa Ace is the most recent victim but there have been many more assaults and unlawful arrests of civilians.  The trend is worrying, unacceptable and must be halted.”

  The Movement says it has been almost two weeks since the police brutalized Killa Ace and nothing is yet heard from the Barrow administration.  “Team Gom Sa Borpa urges President Barrow to speak up against such assaults on innocent Gambians, failure of which we will hold him personally responsible for spreading terror in the country, and encouraging a return to Jammeh’s bad old days of tyranny and horror.”

The Movement also said it wish to bring the President’s attention to the inhumane treatment of detainees at the Anti-Crime Unit in Bijilo, stating that it is common knowledge that the constitution clearly states that one shouldn’t be kept in custody beyond 72 hours without being charged and taken to court no matter what crime they are accused of committing.

  “This matter is much bigger than Killa Ace alone, because Gambians expected President Barrow to have made good on his promise to root out such murderers, torturers, and perpetrators and not elevate some of them, and keep most of them in the service of the nation that have suffered such grievances for 22 years under Jammeh,” said Jegan Grey-Johnsons, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator of African Regional office of the Open Society Foundations.

 Team Gom Sa Borpa said they expected President Barrow to have shown empathy, encouragement and strong political will at the very least, deter such occurrences in the new found democracy. “But we are disappointed that he has chosen to embrace such rotten elements in his new administration so that they can continue to abuse and undermine the very security, peace and stability we voted for on December 2 2016.  We will not stand idly and see this aspiration dissipate or undermined.” 

They said they will not standby by and watch colleagues, and fellow citizens continue to be the subject of cruelty and rights violations. Saying, they will stand up for their fundamental rights and the rights of others to speak up, and shine a light in the dark corners where tyranny and impunity take refuge and attempt to thrive.  “We will protect our new found democracy, because the price of such freedom was too costly to surrender to tyranny, especially for a second time.  So we ask, once again, for umpteenth time that President Barrow speaks up against this worrying trend, demonstrate political will and put a stop to such brutality once and for all.”