- A wave of arrests of high-ranking officials in The Gambia over the past week is causing protests by the opposition and rights groups. None of the detained have been charged or been able to meet a lawyer.
It what was originally presented as an attack on illegal drug networks in The Gambia, an unknown number of citizens have been arrested during the past week. Arrests included high-ranking civilian and military officials, including the recently sacked Fisheries Minister Antouman Saho, former Inspector General of Police Ensa Badjie and Commander of the Navy Sarjo Fofona.
But as the wave of arrests has grown, few believe the action is related to narcotics trade. Local observers rather see yet another purge against Gambians not fully in line with President Yahya Jammeh's totalitarian rule.
Halifa Sallah of the National Alliance for Democracy opposition party told international media the detained were not given their rights according to the Gambian constitution.
This is sustained by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, claiming the detained have yet to be charged with any crime. They were further being "denied visits from lawyers and family." The Gambian Constitution stipulates that people should be charged within 72 hours of arrest.
"Through this latest spate of arbitrary arrests and detentions, Gambian authorities have once again shown its blatant disregard for human rights," said Amnesty's Erwin van der Borght in a statement today.
The human rights group has repeatedly called on Gambian authorities to end the arbitrary arrests and detention of perceived and real opponents of the government that have intensified since the alleged failed coup attempt in March 2006.
"The many people that remain detained without charge and that in some cases face torture send a very different message," said Mr van der Borght. "It is high time for the government to follow its own Constitution and fulfil its human rights obligations. Those arrested should either be charged with a recognisable criminal offence or released."
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