Update: Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Amie Bojang-Sissoho

Afrifem news, Blog

The African Feminist Forum is outraged at the treatment of Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Amie Bojang-Sissoho.  The two Gambian feminist sisters (and members of AFF) were detained for 10 days before an absurdly high bail was set, and, are now being tried for an alleged theft – of which the Gambian Government’s own inquiry […]

The African Feminist Forum is outraged at the treatment of Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Amie Bojang-Sissoho.  The two Gambian feminist sisters (and members of AFF) were detained for 10 days before an absurdly high bail was set, and, are now being tried for an alleged theft – of which the Gambian Government’s own inquiry commission has already cleared them, and the organisation from whom they are supposed to have stolen has already stated it was an administrative mix-up and has not been in court.

Nearly 200 feminists at the Third African Feminist Forum in Dakar recently signed a petition supporting Isatou and Amie.  The AFF demands that the charges be dropped, or at minimum a fair trial be guaranteed.   Unfortunately, the Gambian Ambassador and senior officials have consistently refused to see the AFF delegation, although they were able to lodge the petition at the Embassy.  Nonetheless, the fear and upset of the Gambian Embassy officials shows that our message is clear – unjustice will not be taken quietly and there will be trouble if that happens.

EN / FR

Coalition for Human Rights in the Gambia, Dakar, Senegal.
Press Release
11th November 2010


URGENT: The Gambia: The trial of two Women’s Rights Defenders Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho :   A Theft Case Without A Complainant – Yolocamba Solidaridad Not Present In Court As Principal Witness

The last court hearing of the trial of Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director and Amie Bojang- Sissoho, Programme Coordinator for the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) that took place on last Wednesday, 3rd November 2010, before Magistrate Emmanuel Nkea of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court has begun to raise eyebrows.

The Duo were accused of theft of 30000 Euro from Yolocamba Solidaridad. The whole Gambia was expecting the principal witnesses to be Spanish citizens representing Yolocamba Solidaridad: but they were absent. It appeared that the Gambia Government was representing Yolocamba Solidaridad.

The court heard the testimonies of two female circumcisers, Aminata Damba and Kaddy Damba, from Taibatu Village in Wulli West, Upper River Region (URR) and Saruja village in the Central River Region (CRR) respectively. The women explained how they got involved in working with GAMCOTRAP and from whom they each received more than D3000 (over US$100). One of them even said that even though it is her profession to be a female circumciser, if the Government were to ask her to stop she would do so. This should be noted by all those who are combating harmful traditional practices. This also raises the question whether the Government is really committed to abolishing harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation when professionals are even waiting for it to take the lead.

Innocent villagers were dragged to court to testify the benefits they have received so that they would drop the knife as circumcisers. The whole exercise of dropping the knife was done at the Stadium in Basse (about 400km from Banjul the capital) and witnessed by all the District Chiefs of the Upper River Region, Village heads and Women’s leaders representing the Circumcisers, and other dignitaries and representatives of National and International organizations and institutions including a representative of Yolocamba Solidaridad, Maria Jesus Rodriguez alias Susy who also gave a statement at the celebration. The Coalition for Human Rights in The Gambia only hopes that the state will not dare to drag Gambian village women to court and exclude representatives of Yolocamba Solidaridad from appearing as witnesses.

The new prosecutor Superintendent Sainey Joof informed the court of his intention to register an additional charge of fraudulent accounting but this was rejected by the team of defence counsels led by Mr Lamin Mboge. According to eyewitness accounts, the court was full to capacity and the witnesses looked infuriated and distracted by their lack of comprehension of what was going on.

It could be recalled that the two prominent Women Human Rights Defenders spent ten days in detention before being granted bail on Wednesday 20th October, 2010 after a hearing in a crowded courtroom at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court.  The bail bond is One Million Five Hundred Thousand Gambian Dalasis (over US$ 50, 000) each, and two sureties with a landed property.

Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director and Amie Bojang- Sissoho, Programme Coordinator for the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) were arrested on Monday October 11th, 2010 by Gambian security personnel, detained at the Banjul Police station where they spent the night and then whisked to Banjul Magistrates’ Court the following day October 12th, which refused them bail and sent them to Mile Two Central Prisons. They were charged with theft of 30,000 (Thirty Thousand) Euros received from a Spanish NGO Yolocamba Solidaridad.

It is difficult to comprehend why the Gambia government is interested in this case which is simply a civil matter involving two NGOs. Moreover, the report of the panel it had earlier set up is at variance with the allegations. The Coalition for Human Rights in The Gambia is calling on the Gambia Government to desist from intimidating witnesses and to allow them to speak freely without coercion or manipulation. It urges the government to withdraw the criminal case from court, to allow the two NGOs to sort out any problem that may exist between them and for civil matters to take civil processes without any interference. The Coalition  further demands that if the representatives of Yolocamba Solidaridad are not to appear as principal witnesses to show beyond doubt what they are claiming to have been stolen from them, then  the Gambia Government should withdraw the case from court and allow them to pursue their claim through civil suit.

Questions are being asked by our colleagues abroad whether GAMCOTRAP may not be seen as a political threat by the Government. The Coalition is therefore calling on all human rights defenders to follow the testimony of the women from the villages. One would discover that they are usually close to the Governors and headmen of villages, who are usually involved by NGOs because of the traditional set up.  The Coalition is also calling on the defence to bring all those Governors, Village Heads, Women leaders to testify how much they have consumed  and received from GAMCOTRAP and whether they did so for any political reason. This should be transformed into the best forum to combat harmful traditional practice by showing how everyone is a beneficiary of programmes, irrespective of party affiliation or non involvement in politics. The two women will again appear in court again on November 22nd, 2010.

NOTE:

Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Amie Bojang-Sissoho have for many years been active in the promotion of gender equality, rights of women and children, particularly in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation and other discriminatory practices. Dr. Touray is also Secretary General of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). She is a board member of Women Living Under Muslim Laws for the past two years, and also a board member of MUSAWA based in Malaysia.   At the national level Dr. Touray is a board member of the network of women positively living with HIV/AIDS in the Gambia – MUTAPOLA and Chairperson of the Network for Peace Building in Africa – WANEP.

Dr. Touray was named ‘Gambian of the Year’ in 2008 by The News and Report Weekly Magazine for her work around FGM and promoting the rights of women and children. An award she received when she was attending a training programme in the Bwiam.

Dr. Touray was also awarded the “Woman of Courage” in 2008 by the American Embassy in Banjul.  She was also a winner of the One Hundred Heroines of the World by the Rochester Women’s Health Project at Rutgers University in the United States of America.

Amie Bojang-Sissoho is a journalist and has contributed significantly to women and children’s development particularly in the area of educational programming at the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS).  She has initiated and has been instrumental in creating programmes that are grounded on the principles of promoting gender equality and women’s human rights.  She was also instrumental in bringing out the voices of the poor and powerless women using the radio as a tool for empowerment.  Ms. Bojang-Sissoho is also Chairperson of the Young Journalists’ Association of the Gambia – YJAG.

Both women have been active in various networks relating to women’s human rights promotion.

For more information, contact +221 33 867 95 87

ORGANISATIONS:-

–      Inter African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development – (FAMEDEV)

–      International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

–      Syndicat des Professionnels de l’Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)

–      Rencontre Africaine pour le Défense Des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO),

–      Amnesty International, Section Senegal

–      Radio Alternative Voice for Gambians-Radio AVG

–      Article 19

–      Organisation Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH)

–      Réseau Presse et Parlement du Sénégal (REPPAS)

–      West African Journalists Association (WAJA).

Version française

Coalition pour Droits de l’homme en Gambie, Dakar, Senegal.

Communiqué de presse

11 novembre 2010

Gambie : Procès des Défenseurs de Droits de la femme Docteur Isatou Touray et Amie Bojang-Sissoho : un cas de vol sans Plaignant – Le principal témoin Yolocamba Solidaridad ne s’est pas présenté au Tribunal

La dernière audience du procès de Docteur Isatou Touray, Directrice Exécutive et Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Coordonnatrice des programmes pour le Comité de la Gambie sur les Pratiques Traditionnelles (GAMCOTRAP) qui a eu lieu le mercredi 3 novembre 2010, sous la présidence du juge Emmanuel Nkea du Tribunal de Banjul a commencé à suscité des interrogations.

Les deux femmes sont accusées de vol de 30.000 Euros de Yolocamba Solidaridad et l’opinion publique en  Gambie s’attendait à ce que le témoin principal Yolocamba Solidaridad soit représenté au procès par des citoyens espagnols. Mail ils n’étaient pas présents. Il est apparu que c’est l’Etat gambien qui a représenté Yolocamba Solidaridad.

La cour a entendu les témoignages de deux exciseuses, Amina Damba et Kaddy Damba, respectivement du Village de Taibatu à l’Ouest de Wulli dans la région de Upper River (URR) et du village de Saruja dans la région de Central River. Les femmes ont expliqué comment elles ont été impliquées dans les activités de GAMCOTRAP dont elles ont reçu chacune D3000 (environ US$100). L’une d’entre elles a même déclaré que bien que sa profession soit exciseuse, si le Gouvernement devait lui demander d’arrêter, elle le ferait. Cela est important pour tous ceux qui combattent les pratiques traditionnelles nuisibles. Cela pose également la question de savoir si le Gouvernement est vraiment résolu à la suppression des pratiques traditionnelles nuisibles comme les mutilations génitales féminines au moment où les professionnels n’attendent que lui pour prendre l’initiative.

Des villageoises innocentes ont été traînées devant la Cour pour témoigner des fonds  reçus pour abandonner la pratique de l’excision. La décision de jeter les couteaux soit a été prise au Stade de Bassé (Situé à 400 km de Banjul la capital) en présence des Chefs de Districts de la Région de Upper River, des chefs de village, des responsables des femmes exciseuses, ainsi que des dignitaires et représentants d’organisations nationales et internationales, y compris une représentante de Yolocamba Solidaridad, Maria Jesus Rodriguez alias Susy qui avait publié un communiqué lors de la célébration. La Coalition pour des Droits de l’homme en Gambie espère que l’Etat n’osera pas traîner uniquement des femmes rurales gambiennes devant la cour et exclure les représentants de Yolocamba Solidarité comme témoins.

Le nouveau Procureur Général  Sainey Joof a informé la cour de son intention d’introduire une nouvelle accusation de comptabilité frauduleuse, mais cela a été rejeté par le pool d’avocats de la défense mené par Me Lamin Mboge. Selon des témoins oculaires, la cour était pleine à craquer et les témoins ont semblé exaspérés et distraits par leur manque de compréhension de ce que se passait.

Il faut rappeler que les deux femmes Défenseurs des Droits humains ont passé dix jours en détention avant d’être libérées sous caution le mercredi 20 octobre 2010 après une audience dans une salle pleine à craquer du Tribunal de Banjul. La caution est fixée à  Un Million Cinq Cent Mille Dalasis gambiens (environ US$ 50, 000) ainsi qu’une propriété foncière en garantie.

Docteur Isatou Touray, Directrice exécutive et Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Coordonnatrice de programmes pour le Comité de la Gambie sur les Pratiques Traditionnelles (GAMCOTRAP) avaient été arrêtées le lundi 11 octobre 2010 par les forces de sécurité gambiennes et détenues au Commissariat de police de Banjul puis déférées à la Cour de Banjul le lendemain 12 octobre, qui leur a refusé la liberté provisoire avant de les envoyer à la prison de Mile Two. Elles sont accusées de vol de 30 000 (Trente Mille) Euros reçus d’une ONG espagnole Yolocamba Solidaridad.

Il est difficile de comprendre l’intérêt du Gouvernement pour une affaire civile liant deux organisations non gouvernementales. D’autant plus que la première commission d’enquête qu’il avait mise en place avait aboutit à la conclusion que les allégations étaient infondées. La Coalition pour des Droits Humains en Gambie invite le Gouvernement gambien à renoncer à l’intimidation des témoins et à leur permettre de parler librement sans contrainte ni manipulation. Il recommande vivement au gouvernement de retirer l’accusation criminelle en vue de permettre aux deux organisations non gouvernementales de régler le problème s’il en existe entre eux et éventuellement ouvrir une procédure civile sans interférence aucune. La Coalition exige en outre, que si les représentants de Yolocamba Solidaridad ne peuvent ni comparaître comme témoin principal, ni témoigner comme étant les principales victimes du vol, alors, le Gouvernement gambien doit retirer la plainte du tribunal et leur permettre de poursuivre l’affaire par une procédure civile.

Des collègues de l’étranger se demandent même si GAMCOTRAP n’est pas perçue comme une menace politique par le Gouvernement. La Coalition invite donc tous les défenseurs de droits de l’homme à suivre de près le témoignage des femmes des villages. Elles sont d’habitude proches des Gouverneurs et chefs de villages, qui sont d’habitude impliqués par l’organisation non gouvernementale à cause de l’aspect traditionnel. La Coalition invite aussi la défense à citer tous ces Gouverneurs, des Chefs de Village, des Femmes leaders pour témoigner de comment ils ont utilisé ce qu’ils ont reçu de GAMCOTRAP et s’ils l’ont fait pour des raisons politiques. Il s’agit là d’une occasion pour susciter un large débat pour montrer tous ceux qui ont pu bénéficier de ce programme sans tenir compte de l’appartenance politique. Les deux femmes apparaîtront de nouveau devant la cour le 22 novembre 2010.

NB : Pour plus d’information, prière nous  contacter  au  +221 33 867 95 87

ORGANISATIONS:-

– Réseau Inter Africain pour les Femmes,  Médias, Genre et le Développement – (FAMEDEV)

-Fédération Internationale des Journalistes (IFJ)

-Syndicat des Professionnels de l’Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)

-Rencontre Africaine de Défense Des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO),

-Amnistie Internationale, Section Sénégal

-Radio -Voix Alternative pour les Gambiens  (Radio AVG)

-Article 19

-Organisation Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH)

-Réseau Presse et Parlement du Sénégal (REPPAS)

-Union des Journalistes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (UJAO).

African Feminist Forum Delegation taking the petition for Isatou and Amie to the Gambian Embassy in Dakar

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