Update: Gambia: 'The Unfair Prosecution of two Women Human Rights Defenders Must Stop'
On January 11, 2012, the criminal case “the State versus Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho” will resume, marking the 41st hearing since the opening of the trial in November 2010 before the Banjul Magistrates’ Court. Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Amie Bojang-Sissoho, respectively Executive Director and Programme Coordinator of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), an organisation working on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and children, are prosecuted on charges of “theft” for the alleged embezzlement of 30,000 euros received in 2009 from “Yolocamba Solidaridad”, a Spanish development NGO. The judicial harassment has been going on for more than a year and a half, when the police started interrogations of GAMCOTRAP staff.
On January 31, 2011, Ms. Begoña Ballestros Sanchez, Director of Yolocamba Solidaridad, denied accusing anyone associated with GAMCOTRAP of theft and submitting a complaint in relation thereof during a hearing at Banjul Magistrate’s Court. During interrogation, which took six hearings, Ms. Isatou Touray had to respond to very precise questions by the Prosecutor covering all aspects of GAMCOTRAP's activities, staff and resources that are unrelated to the charges. He also repeatedly made depreciating comments about the work of GAMCOTRAP's programme to eradicate female genital mutilation.
The Observatory believes that the criminal case against Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho merely aims at intimidating them and impeding GAMCOTRAP from carrying out its activities for the promotion and protection of human rights. More generally, it also aims at intimidating the Gambian civil society and, more particularly, those who stand up for human rights.
The Observatory firmly denounces this continuing judicial harassment and calls upon the Gambian authorities to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their activities free of any hindrances and stop any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against human rights defenders, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by The Gambia.