We the Participants of the Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
Recalling the importance of human rights principles enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression adopted in Banjul.
Concerned by the arbitrary closure of the ‘Independent’ newspaper and the continued detention without charges of Lamine Fatty, reporter of the “Independent” newspaper following a publication he made on the arrested coup suspects of March 21. Also concerned about the lack of Access to family or legal counsel;
Noting that the “Independent” and other private media institution were victims, over the past years, of many attacks, including the arson attack and the destruction of the ’Independent’ printing press by unknown assailants in April 2004; the burning of the house of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)-Banjul correspondent, Ebrima Sillah; the attempted murder of Lawyer Ousman Sillah, in 2004; the killing of the Editor of the Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara in December 2004 and the recent closure of Sud Fm Radio in 2005;
Noting further that many Gambian media practitioners have fled the country for fear for their safety; many lawyers are also leaving in constant fear due to the violations of the legal privileges in human rights cases.
Further concerned that a senior female lawyer Mrs. Mariam Denton, council of one of the alleged coup plotters is in custody and has been denied access to legal counsel. Deeply concerned that such detentions violate the Gambia Constitution which prohibits arbitrary arrest and limits detention without trial to 72 hours;
Also concerned that unlawful arrest and Detentions without charge or trial violates, the provisons of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Nothing further that, in addition to the arbitrary attacks on the media and journalists, anti- media laws such as the Newspaper Amendment Act and the Amendment to the Criminal Code) were passed in December 2005 to muzzle the independent and private media;
Recalling that the Gambia is the permanent headquarters of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and will soon host the African Union Summit;
We therefore urge:
Done in Banjul, 8th May, 2006