The members of Charter Seventy (C70) learnt with utmost outrage, of the killing by personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), of two unarmed demonstrators, Bakary Kujabi and Ebrima Bah, in the village of Faraba in the West Coast region of the country, which sad event happened today. This grave incident happened during protests by villagers over the ongoing land dispute with private mining interests. Eyewitness reports stated in the media that the two victims were shot with live bullets resulting in their deaths; whilst scores more protesters are also reported injured, some critically and are receiving medical attention in hospitals and medical centres around the region. We extend heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and pray for a speedy recovery of those injured.
The fatal actions of PIU officers are, without doubt, a flagrant violation of the constitutional rights of citizens to freely assemble and demonstrate peacefully and of their right to life. Today’s actions are also in violation of directly applicable international laws which guarantees and protects the political and human rights and freedoms of citizens of member states. We are therefore demanding from the government prompt and transparent action in full compliance with both national and international laws, to bring legal actions against any and all violators.
Charter Seventy registers its unequivocal condemnation of the unwarranted and cold-blooded acts of murder of unarmed citizens yet again on the soil of the Gambia. Our members maintain that the security forces should not have responded at the scene of a protest, in the first place, carrying lethal weapons in the form of live bullets, to quell a protest against unarmed civilians; when other less lethal methods exist in their arsenal to put down even violent protests. We, therefore, concluded that the decision to authorise the carrying of lethal weapons to the scene constitutes premeditation to use lethal force as a means of suppressing the protest. We are therefore calling for the PIU Commander who deployed the troops and the actual culprit/s among them who fired the fatal shots to be relieved of their duties immediately and for the initiation of due process actions against those individuals bearing the greater direct or indirect responsibility, on charges of premeditated murder.
We further call upon the government of President Adama Barrow to take urgent actions to stamp out the residual culture of the constant brutalisation of unarmed citizens by security personnel, inherited from the era of dictatorship that seems to be still pervasive within the security forces. Finally, it is our joint opinion that the much-touted Security Sector Reform must now assume greater urgency, in light of these grave but avoidable acts of violence by Gambian security forces.
We call for much greater focus and priority at this material time, in order to seek a fair and just outcome to this sad incident and to set a deterrent that killing of unarmed protesters is a criminal offence that will be punished severely.