Two Prominent Gender and Human Rights Defenders detained in The Gambia: Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang SissohoMonday, October 18th, 2010
Coalition for Human Rights in the Gambia
Press Release 13 October 2010
Two Prominent Gender and Human Rights Defenders detained in The Gambia.
Two prominent Gender and Human Rights defenders, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang Sissoho were arrested and detained on Monday October 11th, 2010 by Gambian security forces, kept in police custody at the Banjul Police station, and sent to jail on Tuesday 12th October 2010.
Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director and Amie Bojang Sissoho, Programme Coordinator, of the Gambia Committee for Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) have over the years been very active and effective in the promotion of gender, women and children’s rights particularly as they relate to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other discriminatory practices. Dr Isatou Touray
GAMCOTRAP is one of the lead organisations working in the area of women and girls empowerment, FGM and other harmful practices that affect the lives and circumstances of women and girls in The Gambia. GAMCOTRAP’s years of struggle and countless efforts have contributed significantly to the development of women and girls in The Gambia and elsewhere and has led to over 100 (one hundred) circumcisers dropping their knives publicly and abandoning the practice.
The two ladies were detained since Monday 11th October, 2010 and allegedly charged with theft of 30 thousand Euros. They spent Monday night in police custody, and their application for bail that was due to be decided on Tuesday the 12th has been refused and the two women’s rights defenders have been remanded for 8 (eight) days.
In his ruling, the presiding magistrate, Mr Emmanuel Nkea noted that he was in a tight corner and found it difficult to decide because both prosecution and defence have failed to elaborate on the issue of whether the defendants will use their influence to interfere with the investigation of the policewhich the police say is incomplete. In the end he refused them bail and remanded them in custody at the Female Wing of Mile Two Prisons for 8(eight)days after which they will proceed to court for hearing. The Prosecutor had asked for fourteen days to enable them complete their investigation.However sources close to the office of the President have disclosed that the detention of the two ladies is an executive order.
It could be recalled that in May 2010 the office of the President set up a panel consisting of 7 (seven) NIA and Police Officers to investigate GAMCOTRAP on the management of a Spanish donor fund from YOLOCAMBASOLIDARIDAD. After a careful review of the issues through statements obtained and relevant materials, the panel concluded that the allegation was unfounded. However, upon submission of its findings, the Panel was dissolved and some of the members dismissed from the service of The Gambian Government. A second Panel was set up and while GAMCOTRAP was awaiting the outcome of the second investigation, the two women were remanded.
This is not the first time that GAMCOTRAP has been targeted by President Yaya Jammeh ‘s government . In 1999 the security of members of GAMCOTRAP was threatened when the president publicly said that he could not guarantee the safety of activists who are campaigning against FGM. This was followed by a policy directive from the then Director of Broadcasting of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) forbidding the staff from broadcasting on Gambia Radio and Television (state owned) messages that oppose FGM, or mention the medical hazards. Instead, only messages in support of the practice should be aired on the state owned media.