Gambia: High Court Rules Police Violated Talk Show Host’s Rights

Screengrab photo: Sisawo speaks on the Badinya Kaacha SO5 EP29 on Saturday September 30, 2023.

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) welcomes today’s High Court Ruling in favour of Alagie Bora Sisawo, a culture and society talk show co-host on Kerr Fatou, whose rights were violated by the Gambia Police Force (GPF) last month.

The court found that Sissawo’s detention by the police from October 4 to October 10, 2023 was unlawful and a breach of his fundamental rights, and awarded him D500, 000 ($8,168) in damages, following a suit filed by his lawyers with support from Kerr Fatou against the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Gambia’s Attorney General.

Justice Ebrima Jaiteh, presiding, ruled that the IGP and his officers “had no justifiable reason to detain” Sisawo beyond the legal limit of 72 hours, according to media reports. The police have also been ordered to return Sissawo’s mobile phone, an iPhone 13 pro max, which was seized 38 days ago following his arrest.

In his landmark ruling, the presiding judge stated that “no person should be arrested and detained beyond the constitutional limit without charge.”

“The police are duty bound and under obligation to protect the fundamental rights of every person in the Gambia,” Justice Jaiteh said. “No [one’s] rights should be violated with impunity.”

The GPU urges the Gambia government to fully comply with the Court’s ruling, and to ensure that the rights of media workers and citizens are respected in law and in practice, including to right to freedom of expression.

October Arrest

Sisawo was held by the Police beyond the 72-hour legal limit for detention following the revocation of his bail on Wednesday, October 4.

In a dictatorship-era-style operation, the police detained Sisawo incommunicado for more than 48 hours with his whereabouts unknown and without having access to his family or a lawyer, over comments he made in reaction to a barrage of remarks by President Adama Barrow that directly threaten the state of press freedom, freedom of expression and the country’s fledgling democracy.

Sisawo, co-host of the ‘Badinya Kaacha’, a talk show about family relations, culture and society, was held at by the headquarters of the Anti-Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force in Banjulinding, 23km from the capital, Banjul.

He was released on October 10 and and said he was beaten by the police and dumped in the mud in the process.

August Arrest

Sisawo was previously arrested on 13 August, 2023 for criticizing the Gambian President, Adama Barrow, and the Inspector General of Police, Abdoulie Sanyang.

At the time, he told the GPU he was questioned for a cumulative three hours on different dates over comments he made in one of his shows about the president and the police chief and the military coup in Niger. His phone was taken from him by the police for two hours during his three-day detention.

In the wake of the coup in Niger, Sisawo had expressed support for coups against “undemocratic and self-centered African governments” and also condemned the arrest of Senegalese citizens who protested against visiting President Macky Sall, and for saying that the IGP and President Barrow should be ashamed of themselves for arresting the Senegalese protesters, according to media reports.

He was eventually released on police bail without charge on 15 August, 2023.

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