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UN expert group on arbitrary detention urges Gambia to respect the rights of journalist Alhagie Ceesay

GENEVA (20 May 2016) – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention today raised concern about the current situation of Alhagie Ceesay and urged the Gambian authorities to ensure that his rights are respected regardless of his location.

Mr. Ceesay, the director of the Teranga FM radio station, has been detained and on trial for sedition since July 2015. He was last seen in April 2016 when he was transferred from detention to a hospital to receive urgent medical care. Mr. Ceesay has been hospitalized on several occasions for serious health problems, reportedly due to torture and ill-treatment he has been subjected to while in detention.

In a legal Opinion* adopted in December 2015, the expert panel established that the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Ceesay is arbitrary, and requested the  Gambian Government to take the necessary steps to remedy his situation.

“We urge the authorities of the Gambia to uphold our Opinion concerning the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Ceesay, which we deemed arbitrary and called for his immediate release,” the Working Group’s experts said.

“We reiterate that Gambia must accord Mr. Ceesay an enforceable right to compensation and to ensure that his right to liberty, personal security, freedom of opinion and expression are effectively protected,” they stressed.

The Working Group noted that Mr. Ceesay’s arrest and detention appear to be related to his profession as a journalist, and result from the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

“We are deeply worried that the crime of ‘sedition’ is used to deny Mr. Ceesay the enjoyment of his rights and freedoms. Mr. Ceesay was arrested twice without a warrant and there have been serious violations of his right to fair trial in the legal proceedings against him,” the Working Group concluded.

(*) Check the Working Group’s Opinion No.50/2015 concerning the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Ceesay: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions2015AUV/Opinion%202015%2050_TheGambia_Ceesay_AUV.pdf

The Working Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Sètondji Roland Jean-Baptiste Adjovi (Benin); the Vice-Chair on follow-up is Ms. Leigh Toomey; the Vice-Chair on individual complaints is Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico); other members are Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine) and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea).

The Working Group was established by the former Commission on Human Rights in 1991 to investigate instances of alleged arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Its mandate was clarified and extended by the Commission to cover the issue of administrative custody of asylum-seekers and immigrants. On 26 September 2013, the Human Rights Council extended the Working Group’s mandate for a further three-year period. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – The Gambia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/GMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Yiyao Zhang (+41 22 917 9634 / yzhang@ohchr.org) or write to wgad@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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