Wednesday, November 25, 2009


United Nations Declares Gambia’s Detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh

a Violation of International Law, Calls for Immediate Release

Washington, D.C., November 18, 2009 – In response to a petition filed by attorneys from Freedom Now

and Hogan & Hartson LLP, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an

opinion affirming that the arrest and continued detention by the Gambian government of Chief Ebrima

Manneh, a senior reporter for the Gambian newspaper, Daily Observer, are without legal justification and

in violation of international law. In its decision, the UN called for the Gambian government to release Mr.

Manneh immediately.

Freedom Now Chair Jeremy Zucker stated: “We are strongly encouraged that the Working Group has

issued a clear and direct opinion in support of Mr. Manneh. We urge the Gambian government to release

Mr. Manneh immediately.”

On July 7, 2006, two plainclothes agents of Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency arrested Manneh in

the Daily Observer’s Banjul office. The agents did not inform Mr. Manneh of the reason for his arrest;

whatever the reason, it was clear that he was detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom

of expression. Mr. Manneh has not been charged with a crime nor given a trial. Instead, he remains

imprisoned incommunicado, while the Gambian government disavows his arrest and detainment.

Reports from Gambia indicate that Mr. Manneh may be subject to deeply inhumane treatment while in

detention. According to the U.S. State Department, Gambian security forces have used various forms of

physical and mental torture against Gambian political prisoners. In addition, Mr. Manneh has suffered

serious health problems during his detention yet has generally been denied access to medical care.

The UN decision is the latest in a growing number of demands for Mr. Manneh’s release. Last year, the

Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared

that Mr. Manneh’s detention violates international law. The Court demanded that Gambia release

Mr. Manneh and pay damages to his relatives. U.S. Senators Durbin, Feingold, Casey, Murray, Lieberman

and Kennedy echoed these demands in an April 22, 2009 open letter to Gambian President Jammeh. The

Committee to Protect Journalists also has called for Manneh’s release. To date, the Gambian government

has ignored these demands.

In response to the UN decision, Senator Durbin, the Assistant Majority Leader, stated: “This judgment by

the United Nations adds a new and important voice to the growing chorus of those calling for the

immediate release of Chief Ebrima Manneh who, for three long years, has been held incommunicado and

without charge or trial. The UN’s judgment is more than a powerful rebuke of the Gambia government; it

is a warning to all regimes holding political prisoners without cause. Freedom Now and the Committee to

Protect Journalists should be commended for their tireless work, not only on behalf of Mr. Manneh, but for

thousands of political prisoners languishing in prisons across the globe.”

Senator Russ Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs,

stated: “I am deeply troubled that Chief Manneh remains in detention incommunicado and without trial.

The UN Working Group has affirmed that this is a violation of the most basic human rights. If the

Gambian government does not immediately release Manneh or provide information about his

whereabouts, the international community should take action to make clear this is unacceptable.”

Freedom Now, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to free prisoners of conscience, and

Hogan & Hartson, an international law firm, welcome the UN’s decision. They call on the Gambian

government to release Mr. Manneh immediately.

Contacts: Jeremy Zucker 202.468.4648 / Erica Mintzer: 703.623.8767

No comments: