The Gambia: Call on the Government of The Gambia to ensure a fair trial for anti-FGM activists, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho.

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Date: 
18 Oct 2010
Update Date: 
20 Oct 2010
Update: 

UPDATE, 20 October 2010: Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho released on bail

Prominent Gambian anti-FGM activists, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho were released on bail on October 20, 2010. Equality Now continues to advocate for their right to a fair trial and will continue to monitor the case. Please keep up the pressure by calling on The Gambian authorities to safeguard their right to a fair trial.

URGENT ALERT: THE GAMBIA
18 October 2010

Call on the Government of The Gambia to release immediately on bail women’s rights activists, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho

Equality Now is deeply concerned about the arrests of prominent Gambian anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) activists and long-time partner, Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of The Gambia Committee Against Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), and her colleague Amie Bojang-Sissoho, who were taken under police custody on October 11, 2010 without any explanation and later moved to Mile Two Central Prison where they are detained while investigations in their case reportedly continue.

GAMCOTRAP is a national and international leader in the campaign against the practice of FGM in The Gambia. According to reports, both Dr. Touray and Ms. Sissoho were arrested and detained on the government’s claim that they would have allegedly misappropriated funds, despite their having been cleared by an initial investigation. Both women were denied bail even though theft is a bailable offense in The Gambia.

The government of The Gambia is bound by Article 9 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that any persons awaiting trial must be granted bail. In addition, Section 19 of the Gambian Constitution confirms bail as a constitutional right.

Equality Now joins in the calls for the immediate and unconditional release on bail of Dr. Touray and Ms. Bojang-Sissoho. We call upon the Gambian government to ensure that they are guaranteed their right to a free and fair trial in an independent and impartial court; security and dignity of person, and freedom from unlawful detention as guaranteed in Articles 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and Article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Gambia. We also urge that if they are not tried within a reasonable time, they be released unconditionally without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against them.

FGM is widely practiced in The Gambia and according to UNICEF, the national prevalence rate is 78.3 percent among women between 15-49 years. Despite the national campaigns against FGM in The Gambia, the practice still persists and the campaigns launched against the harmful traditional practice face strong opposition from the religious leaders and others who promote FGM.

The government of The Gambia has an obligation under both regional and international human rights law to ensure that the practice of FGM is eliminated. In 2005, The Gambia ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Women’s Protocol”) that, in Article 5(b) requires States Parties to prohibit FGM through legislative measures backed by sanctions. In 2000, The Gambia ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the “Children’s Charter”) which, in Section 21, requires States Parties to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices and in particular those “prejudicial to the health or life of the child.” In addition, the Gambian Constitution ensures that no individual shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. The Gambia is also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which both call for member states to take measures to protect girls, including from harmful cultural practices.

We urge the Gambian government to honor its international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing legislation against FGM as well as supporting educational and outreach to relevant communities on the dangers of FGM in accordance with the article 5 of the Women’s Protocol and article 21 of the Children’s Charter.

What You Can Do: 

Please join Equality Now and call on the Gambian government to immediately release on bail Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho. Also urge the Gambian government to protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) through the enactment of a law and other preventive and protective mechanisms in accordance with its national and international obligations. Send letters to:

His Excellency Yahya Jammeh
Office of the President
State House
Banjul
The Gambia
Email: saidy.momodou@yahoo.com
Fax: +220 420 1936

Minister of the Interior and NGO Affairs
Ousman Sonko
21 OAU Boulevard
Banjul
The Gambia
Email: oussonko@yahoo.com

Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy
Vice-President
State House
Banjul
The Gambia
Fax: +220 422 4012

Letters: 

[Dear Excellency/Minister]:

I am writing to you about the arrest, detention and denial of bail of Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho of The Gambia Committee Against Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP). I understand that they have been allegedly charged with misappropriation of funds despite their having been cleared by an initial investigation and denied bail when they had a right to get bail.  The government of The Gambia is bound by regional and international instruments that provide the granting of bail where bail conditions are fulfilled. Article 9 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that any persons awaiting trial must be granted bail.  In addition, Section 19 of the Gambian Constitution confirms bail as a constitutional right.

I urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho upon bail. Your government must ensure that these women are guaranteed their right to a free and fair trial in an independent and impartial court; security and dignity of person, and freedom from unlawful detention as guaranteed in Articles 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and Article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Gambia. I also urge that if they are not tried within a reasonable time, they be released unconditionally without prejudice to any further proceedings which may be brought against them.

Further in keeping with its regional and national obligations, the Gambian government must protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) through the enactment of a law and other preventive and protective mechanisms. The Gambia has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which, in Article 5(b), requires States Parties to prohibit FGM through legislative measures backed by sanctions. In addition, it has ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which, in Section 21, requires States Parties to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices and in particular those “prejudicial to the health or life of the child.”  The Gambia is also a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which both call for member states to take measures to protect girls, including from harmful cultural practices.

Please take immediate steps to enact and enforce anti-FGM legislation and to support the work of groups such as GAMCOTRAP that are working to end this practice.

Respectfully yours