Banjul – Rights campaigners voiced outrage over unlawful detentions and other abuses in Gambia on Friday as it emerged a group of senior government officials had been held without charge for more than a week.
Nine fisheries officials have been in custody since Tuesday last week, police have confirmed, accusing them of irregularities following an audit of the ministry.
Assistant superintendent David Kujabie said the arrests were in connection with a report on the ministry’s activities over six years from January 2008, but refused to say whether they had been charged.
Ground to halt
A government source said the officials had been arrested on the orders of President Yahya Jammeh for “a wide range of issues including the issuance of fishing licenses to foreign companies and trawlers”.
“We are junior officers who cannot take certain decisions. Our day-to-day function is seriously affected,” he said.
Opposition leader Ousainou Darboe denounced the arrests, which saw present and former permanent secretaries and department directors taken into custody, as “unlawful and unconstitutional”.
“The constitution of the Gambia is very categoric. It states if a person is arrested, he or she must be brought before a court of law within 72 hours of arrest.
“So detaining these fisheries officers beyond the 72 hours permitted by the constitution is a gross violation of the constitution.”
The west African nation, the smallest on the mainland and surrounded on three sides by Senegal, has long been dogged by rights concerns under Jammeh’s administration.