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UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls for Manneh's release

(MFWA/IFEX) - The United Nations' Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has, in a statement, called on the Gambian government to immediately release Chief Ebrimah Manneh, citing his arrest and continued detention as being without legal justification and in violation of international law.

Following the statement, the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations recognised this injustice and, in an unprecedented move, mentioned Manneh in their report accompanying the 2010 fiscal State-Foreign Operations Bill, stating that the harassment of journalists, and that of Manneh in particular, would be considered in assessing the United States' continued assistance to The Gambia.

Manneh, a young Gambian journalist with "The Daily Observer", was arrested in Banjul on July 11, 2006 by the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) without any reason being given and has since been held incommunicado. On July 27, 2007, he was seen for the first time since his arrest at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, escorted by Gambian security personnel.

In April 2007, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) filed a lawsuit against the government of The Gambia on Manneh's behalf at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. On June 8, 2008, in a landmark decision, the court ruled that Manneh be released and compensated with US$100,000; the Gambian government has blatantly disregarded the order.

For the past three years, MFWA has been at the forefront of the campaign for Manneh's release, bringing global awareness to the case through consistent dissemination of alerts and press statements, holding public fora and networking with other civil society organizations to pressure the Gambia to respect the Community Court ruling.

MFWA whole-heartedly welcomes the decision of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Working Group's call on the international community to take action should the Gambia refuse the order.

MFWA also calls on all African heads of state, especially those of the ECOWAS sub-region, to unreservedly, and in the spirit and letter of the ECOWAS protocols on good governance and respect for individuals' human rights, press President Yahya Jammeh to release Manneh and compensate him in accordance with the Court's ruling.

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