[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter today to the Gambian Attorney General, Edward Gomez, requesting information about Chief Ebrima Manneh, a Gambian journalist who has been missing for more than five years. According to recent comments by Attorney General Gomez, Manneh, who many worried had died while in Gambian custody, is alive.
“I am writing to request immediate information regarding Chief Ebrima Manneh, a Gambian journalist with the Daily Observer who has been missing since a troubling detention by Gambian security personnel more than five years ago. In light of your recent comments claiming that Manneh is alive -- a stark contrast from previous Gambian government silence and denials regarding his whereabouts -- I ask that you immediately provide any information regarding Manneh’s location and condition,” Durbin wrote to AG Gomez.“If Chief Manneh is, in fact, alive, and you do have knowledge of his whereabouts, helping to resolve his disappearance could add credibility to your recent comments at the 50th session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, during which you spoke of the need to “speak out against human rights abuses.” Sadly, without an immediate accounting for Mr. Manneh, those words will ring hollow in Gambia and around the world.”
Durbin also wrote to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, expressing his strong support for the United Kingdom’s role in investigating Chief Manneh’s case.
Durbin wrote; “I respectfully ask you to investigate Chief Manneh’s disappearance and urge you to continue to press the Gambian government to respect its international commitments as a member of both the UN and the Commonwealth in this case.”
Chief Manneh was reportedly detained in July 2006 for political reasons by plainclothes police officers thought to have been from the Gambian National Intelligence Agency. Some reports suggest that he has being held at the Fatoto Police Station in eastern Gambia, at Mile Two Prison, or a National Intelligence Agency compound in Serekunda. In July 2007, he was also reportedly escorted by members of the Gambian Police Intervention Unit to the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul for high blood pressure treatment. He has not been seen since.
Both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice and the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have called for the immediate release of Mr. Manneh.
Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, has been pressing for Chief Manneh’s release for several years.