Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) leads a group of six senators to call for the immediate release of the former state Daily Observer newspaper, "Chief" Ebrima Manneh today. Colleagues at the newspaper say they witnessed two plainclothes Gambian National Intelligence Agency officers whisk Manneh, right, away in July 2006. He has not been seen since despite repeated calls to the government to disclose his whereabouts.
"The conflicting information and lack of responsiveness further the
perception of a disturbing deterioration of human rights in the
sentiments are supported by a whirlwind of denials and witness accounts. Recently,
credible witnesses have reported that Manneh is still alive while an
Agence-France Press article
published last week quoted an unnamed senior police source who speculated that
the journalist was dead. Sightings of Manneh have been reported throughout his
disappearance from Mile Two Prison in the capital,
Despite sightings and considerable international pressure, the Gambian government has consistently denied holding Manneh. The former communications secretary and current Gambian Ambassador to the United States, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, told CPJ in 2007 that Manneh was not in government custody. The same response was echoed this month by Gambian Attorney General and Justice Minister Marie Saine Firdaus.
Local journalists and the Gambian Press Union have told CPJ that Manneh was
abducted for simply trying to republish in the Daily Observer a BBC report that was
critical of President Yahya Jammeh. But the former president of the Gambian
Press Union, Demba Jawo, believes Manneh was targeted for his investigations
into the 2005 killing of Ghanaian immigrants in the
Whatever the motive behind Manneh's disappearance, mounting international pressure on the Gambian government will hopefully induce some answers. A group of prominent lawyers and human rights experts called Freedom Now filed a petition for Manneh with the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The petition was filed last November and a ruling is expected soon. Last week, Amnesty International launched a photo campaign urging answers. And exiled Gambians journalists throughout the world continue looking for answers to their former colleague's disappearance.
Sen. Durbin's second call for answers to Manneh's disappearance sends a strong message to President Jammeh that the world will no longer tolerate silence on this tragic case. Read the entire letter here.