No to investigation panel. Go to court or free them

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Dear editor,

The soldiers who were arrested for a so-called coup should either be charged before a court of law or be court martialled or be freed. There’s no need for an investigation panel of any kind.

There are laws for treason in this country. It’s in the Criminal Code and it’s applied in the courts. So apply the law by charging these soldiers before a court of law or release them free.

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In the meantime they have a right to access their families and lawyers. Their continued detention is unlawful and unconstitutional because their detention has not been rightfully and legally sanctioned by any court. The Government has no power to arrest and detain anyone for any crime indefinitely.

If these soldiers cannot be charged under the criminal justice system, they should face court martial if they had acted in violation of The Gambia Armed Forces Act. In that case they also have a right to family and defense.

So the idea of an investigation panel in line with so-called international best practices is bogus, unnecessary and prone to manipulation and abuse as it used to happen during the dictatorship.

The UN, AU, and EU like all other international and regional organizations do not have any protocol, guidelines, standards, or procedures to address a coup d’etat. For these organizations, when a person breaks the law, he or she must go through a due process in line with the rule of law and human rights standards. Therefore there’s no need for an investigation panel for a coup. Apply the law.

Secondly, we know that the members of that so-called panel will all be former enablers of that dictatorship hence there will be no justice. These are the people who are today propping up the system towards dictatorship and regime security. Hence the panel is only interested in finding them guilty since a guilty verdict is already passed on them.

Therefore free the soldiers now or apply the rule of law now. Anything else is abuse of power, violations of human rights and disregard of the rule of law. Never Again.

Taking them before an investigation panel is to extract confessions from them which is unethical and unlawful. The panel will not be open to the public hence the tendency for intimidation, manipulation and fear to be imposed on the suspects is high. If the Government has evidence of a coup, let them present it before the courts.

We have to demand system change. That Jammeh-era procedures are abusive, unlawful and torturous. We must not let a recurrence again!!

Therefore the National Human Rights Commission, The Gambia Bar Association and TANGO and all CSOs should not sit by silently to watch the Government abuse the rights of ‘suspects’. The crime of treason attracts a capital punishment hence no one should be subjected to such punishment without the full application of the rule of law and human rights.

All those who condemned the alleged coup have a duty to watch and speak out to ensure adherence to the due process and human rights. In this reward I call on the African Union and ECOWAS to remind and urge The Gambia Government to abide by the laws of the land and apply them in this case. There is no justification for a Government-controlled closed-door investigation panel because it will be unfair, unethical and unlawful meant to sacrifice justice.

Similarly political parties and all citizens must stand up to ensure that these ‘suspects’ enjoy the highest standards and safeguards of the law and human rights.

Madi Jobarteh

Kembujeh