Rights group calls on gov’t to drop charges against protesters

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Executive director of Gambian rights group Beakanyang has called on the government to drop the charges against a group of people who were arrested last week on allegation of organising a protest in demand for president Adama Barrow to step down.

The group who call themselves “Operation 3-years ‘jotna” announced last week that they will be protesting to demand President Barrow to respect the three years mandate agreement he had with coalition leaders before standing for the 2016 Presidential election that ended former President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year authoritarian rule.

During a public lecture on human rights protection in The Gambia in North Bank Region’s coastal community of Barra on Wednesday, Nfamara Jawneh said Gambia’s current Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly and association. “The government is the primary duty bearer in protecting human rights and as such the police should be obliged to protect rights of citizens.”

The rights activist said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers human beings to have peaceful assembly and association. “During the 22-year autocratic rule of Yahya Jammeh, Gambians witnessed gross human rights violations and now, we should all work towards consolidating our democracy,” he said.

Fifteen members of the “Operation 3 Years Jotna” movement were arrested on 10 May 2019 as they assembled along the Bertil Harding Highway opposite the Senegambia main junction. They are charged with unlawful assembly, conspiracy to commit felony and prohibition of conduct conducive to a breach of peace.

Mr. Jawneh said significant progress has been made with regard to human rights protection since the advent of the Coalition government, praising the establishment of National Human Rights Commission and Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission as good steps in enhancing democracy.

He, however, lamented that the arrest of unarmed protestors was an unfortunate incident and should not have happened at first instance.  He said arresting peaceful protestors could portray negative image on the country and stain its human rights records. “Personally, I didn’t even know those arrested neither do I know their affiliation but my only concern is about their fundamental human rights as citizens of The Gambia and above all they are human beings,” he stressed.

Mr. Jawneh advised young people especially students to learn more about their rights and respect the rights of others at all times. “One more thing I would urge you is to desist from all manner of indiscipline including insulting our leaders; be it the president, ministers or any other authority because that is not democracy,” he told students.

Source: Picture: Nfamara Jawneh