By Bakary Ceesay
The United Democratic Party (UDP) has strongly condemned the disproportionate use of force and acts of violence against innocent protesters who were engaged in exercising their democratic rights to protest.
The statement signed by it party leader Ousainou Darboe reads that UDP has observed with great concern the events of January 26, 2020 between the security forces and members/supporters of the “Three Years Jotna Movement”.
The United Democratic Party is known for its respect for human rights, tolerance and adherence to freedom of expression and assembly; as demonstrated by its conduct over the past 25 years. We therefore, strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force and acts of violence against innocent protesters who were engaged in exercising their democratic rights to protest under a permit issued by the Inspector General of Police.
The party took note of graphic images of Gambians being brutalised by personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU). This included the beating of female protesters already arrested. The UDP urges those who continue to advocate and claim to be supporters of women’s rights to review their positions in view of the mistreatment of innocent female protesters.
The closure of media houses is unacceptable. Media reports have it that the Minister of Information was not privy to any decision taken to close these media houses. We condemn this action on the part of the police and urge government to reopen these radio stations immediately. The arbitrary closure of media houses and arrest of journalists was the hallmark of the Jammeh administration.
The party also understands that many arrested individuals have been denied access to legal advice and family visits; and some of the arrested individuals require medical attention. They have been denied these rights and this is reminiscent of the Jammeh-era excesses.
Media images also showed a young man who lost his teeth and was bleeding profusely as a result of violence by the PIU. These are not the kind of images and types of actions Gambians expect to see post-2016, neither is this the change Gambians voted for in December 2016.
The United Democratic Party calls upon the government to observe the principles of the rule of law and cooperate with the Human Rights Commission to conduct an enquiry into why a peaceful and lawful demonstration was violently disrupted.
“We equally appeal to all citizens to exercise restraint and observe the rule of law in the exercise of their rights in the interest of peace and national security”