PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 27/001/2009
12 March 2009
UA 72/09 Fear of torture or other ill-treatment/ possible unfair trial
GAMBIA Halifa Sallah (m)
Halifa Sallah was arrested on 8 March at his home in Serrekunda, a suburb of the capital Banjul, and taken to
Serrekunda police station by five plain clothed policemen. He is believed to have been arrested for his articles
criticising the use of witch-doctors by the Gambian government. Amnesty International is concerned that he is
at risk of being tortured or ill treated and being the victim of an unfair trial.
Halifa Sallah was moved to Yundung police station in a neighbouring suburb on the 9 March. The next day he
was moved to Banjul police station. He was charged with sedition and spying by the Brikama magisterial court
on 11 March and sent to the remand section of Mile II, the Central Prison in the Gambia. His next court date
is set for 25 March.
Since January, Halifa Sallah has been writing articles for Foroyya the main opposition newspaper, of which he
is also a board member, about the activities of witch-doctors from Mali and other West African states. The
witch doctors have reportedly been invited to Gambia to identify witches in a number of villages in the country.
The witch-doctors were invited soon after the death of President Jammeh’s aunt as the president reportedly
believes that witchcraft was used in her death. Articles by Halifa Sallah and other Foroyya reporters claim that
witch-doctors accompanied by Gambian state guards and “the green boys”, the president’s personal
protection officers, identified people in villages of Foni Kansala district, an area near to the President’s farm
of Kanilai, as witches. Those suspected of being witches were attacked, arrested, and detained in Kanilai and
forced to drink concoctions that were supposed to determine whether they were witches. Those accused
would then be forced to confess to being a witch. In some cases, they were also severely beaten almost to the
point of death.
Following Halifa’s arrest on 8 March several hundred people are reported to have been arrested and unlawfully
detained by members of the presidential guard and brought to Kanilai. A woman from Makumbaya is known to
have died of kidney failure shortly after being released from the captivity of witch doctors. Halifa Sallah had
previously written to the National Security Council in Gambia to demand that a stop be put to these actions,
describing them as “gross violations of human rights and infringements on the privacy of Gambians”.
Halifa Sallah is former member of the Pan African parliament and minority leaders of the National assembly.
He is secretary general of the People’s Democratic Organization of Independence and Socialism and the
coordinator of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development. He stood as a presidential candidate in
In Gambia journalists and members of the opposition are considered enemies of the government. They are
routinely harassed, threatened, receive death threats, unlawfully arrested, detained, disappeared, are the
victims of an unfair trial and tortured.