Police have dropped all charges against Madi Jobarteh, a prominent human rights activist after a meeting with the National Human Rights Commission, Gambia Bar Association and The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO).

Mr Jobateh was charged a fortnight ago with ‘false publication’ after telling a reporter at a Black Lives Matter protest that the Gambia government had failed to investigate three deaths involving police and security forces in the country. 

The false publication charges were widely condemned by local and international human rights activists and organisations. Pressures were mounted on the government to drop all charges against Madi Jobarteh. 

And on Friday, the country’s human rights commission announced that the charges have been dropped by the police after a mediation meeting.  

The NHRC statement signed by chairman Emmanuel Joof said: “Following a fruitful discussion at the Headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission today Friday 10th July 2020, with the Gambia Police Force, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Gambia Bar Association and The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), the Inspector General of Police has agreed to drop, with immediate effect, all the charges preferred against Mr. Madi Jobarteh, a human rights defender who was charged with false publication and broadcasting contrary to Section 181A(1) of the Criminal Code of The Gambia.

“No other action will be taken against him as far as this case is concerned. This milestone, following the advisory role of the National Human Rights Commission, was achieved after a frank discussion, which the Commission had with the Inspector General of Police on Thursday 9th July 2020, subsequent to its concerns raised with the Minister of Interior regarding the case,” the statement added.

“At today’s meeting, both TANGO and GBA reiterated that the State is the primary duty bearer and has the obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the fundamental human rights of all persons residing in The Gambia. 

“They called on the Gambia Police Force and all other State security agencies to continuously assume their critical roles as the number one defender and protector of the rights and freedoms of the people.

“It is important to highlight that the right to freedom of expression and speech is sacrosanct and can only be limited in accordance with procedures established by law and in particular to achieve public order and security. 

“The enjoyment of all other human rights cannot be possible when the right to freedom of expression and speech is stifled, censored or unduly restricted or when the people feel a sense of intimidation and fear for expressing their views and opinions on matters of national or public interest. 

“While commending the IGP for the willingness to engage in the discussions and in his commitment to drop all the charges against Mr. Jobarteh, he was reminded of the importance of timely communication with the public, especially on matters of public interest and concern. 

“Suspicions and speculations are minimized when the public is regularly informed and aware of cases under investigations by the Police. 

“Both TANGO and the GBA encouraged the State and its security apparatus to engage with civil society, communicate in a timely and accurate manner and to build strong partnerships to foster a smooth transition following two decades of arbitrary rule by the former president.

“The National Human Rights Commission wishes to remind the Government of its obligations to respect and protect the right of the people to free speech, in accordance with Section 25 of the Constitution of The Gambia, 1997, which guarantees every person living in The Gambia the right to freedom of expression, conscience, assembly, association and movement, as expected in a democratic nation anchored on the rule of law, good governance and dues process,” the statement concluded.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba 

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