A secret security agency operating from within The Gambia’s presidency is behind the arrest of university lecturer, Ismaila Ceesay, according to activists.
The State House Intelligence Unit led the interrogation on Ismaila Ceesay at the police’s Serious Crime Division on Wednesday, a security source confirmed.
The SIU is led by Muhammed Kanteh, who is the Director of Intelligence at the State House. The unit has been lately accused acting with impunity, arresting opposition spokesperson, Sidi Njie.
“This is the test of what is to come. If Gambians alllow this illegal arrest of Ismaila to pass off without immediate redress then no Gambian is ever safe again,” said Madi Jobarteh, a civil society leader.
“If we allow this illegality it means anytime the state can arrest anyone only to say you are being invited only to be detained for hours and days and weeks and months and years in detention.”
Under former dictator Yahya Jammeh’s regime, a similar practice has led to the disappearance of critics and perceived enemies like Kanyiba Kanyi and Chief Ebrima Manneh.
Activists have called for a united front to stand up to stop the authorities from ‘inviting’ citizens to the police station for merely expressing an opinion.
“Let The Gambia Government respond to its critiques through the same media channels but not by the use of force and violence through security institutions. The police have no authority to ‘invite’ Dr Ismaila Ceesay only to then detain him for 24 hours,” said Jobarteh.
“Dr Ceesay is a peaceful and nonviolent and decent Gambian. He must not be arrested like a criminal or armed warrior. His arrest is a threat to each and everyone of us.”
Barrow’s critics say this is exactly the same manner in which dictatorship emerged in the country for 22 years, adding that by allowing one infringement of human rights, citizens came to endure persistent and unending infringements on rights.
Barrow’s victory brought hope for improved respect for human rights and the rule of law. He defeated incumbent Yayah Jammeh who had held power since a 1994 coup and whose government had a long track record of using enforced disappearances, torture, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests to silence opposition voices.
Gambian security forces, particularly the National Intelligence Agency [now the State Intelligence Services] and Police Intervention Unit (PIU), arrested and detained civil society activists who criticized the government, including religious leaders, trade unionists, and journalists during Jammeh’s reign.
During Jammeh’s two decades in power, no members of state security or paramilitary groups are known to have been convicted or otherwise held to account for torture, enforced disappearances, or other serious violations.