By Nelson Manneh
Mr. Emmanuel Daniel Joof, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission yesterday told the ongoing Truth Commission, that there were systematic Human Rights abuses in The Gambia under the APRC Government.
He said anyone who is honest and straightforward would admit the fact tortures, unlawful detentions and enforced disappearance were rampant in the country. Mr. Joof called on religious and opinion leaders in particular to preach peace.
Joof said April 2000 was a very dark day in the anal history of The Gambia as Ebrima Barry was maltreated by the Fire Service Officers leading to his death while a student from Brikamaba was allegedly raped by paramilitary officials. He said as a result of that, students decided to protest and in that process, they were shot by agents of the State. This, he said, gave prominence to the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.
Mr. Joof said the coalition of Human Rights Defenders in year 2000 filed a habeas corpus for the release of the students, who were arrested by State Security Agents following the students’ demonstration.
He testified: “Justice Mam Yassin Sey gave an order for all students held in Communicado to be released by the State. Justice Sey would later face the consequences because the state failed to pay her bills and disconnected her electricity.”
He testified that one evening, he went with Abubacar Tambadou to Omar Joof’s compound, head of the Students Union.
One of the things they requested as a coalition was for the government to have an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the students’ uprising, compensate families of victims and also provide medical treatment for those injured. He added that the Commission of inquiry was later established to probe into issues surrounding the student’s massacre.
He said: “Soon after the Commission recommended for prosecutions, the government came up with an Indemnity Act, which was declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, headed by Hassan B Jallow. The Jammeh government tried to seal the perpetrators and attempted to fire the Judge, but this wasn’t possible.”
According to Joof, Alieu Tine of RADDO disclosed to him that one of their members went to Dakar to get Omar Joof back to The Gambia. He added this made them understand that their group was compromised.
Dumo Saho’s wife, (who was a Swedish national) told him that her husband was held in comminicado and he reported the matter to the Coalition and they filed a habeas corpus for Dumo to be produced, which was respected ‘but with charges of treason’.
He said prior to that, he and Ba Tambedou went round Police Stations and the NIA headquarters respectively in search of Mr Saho, but Sukuta Jammeh threatened him that he would be arrested.
Mr. Muhammed Lamin Sillah was arrested after he granted interview to the BBC on the elections, hetestified.
He added this triggered the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders to petition the authorities to get Sillah release or charge.
Mr. Joof said he was eventually arrested in June 2001 by two Police Officers, who served him with summon for driving without license and stealing a government vehicle.
He testified the case against him was struck out by the Court.
Mr. Joof was born on the 11th April 1966 in Banjul and he attended a University in the United Kingdom.
In 1996-1997, he went to Sierra Leone to do his Bar and upon his return to The Gambia in 1997, he was appointed as a Magistrate.
Prior to that, he started a column in the Daily Observer (called the ‘Human Rights Corner’ in 1994) while working as a lecturer at the Gambia Technical Training Institute.