| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 9 Gambian President Yahya
Jammeh has asked the United Nations to investigate the
disappearance of several journalists in the tiny West African
country that rights groups accuse of persecuting media workers,
the U.N. rights chief said.
"In response to civil society complaints about the
disappearance of a journalist in the Gambia, the president of
Gambia asked for the U.N. to come in and investigate," U.N. High
Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said at a conference
on Wednesday at Hunter College in New York City.
Pillay's spokesman Rupert Colville confirmed that Jammeh's
request referred specifically to Chief Ebrima Manneh, who
disappeared in 2006 after being picked up at the offices of his
newspaper by men who said they were state intelligence officers,
and to one other reporter.
Colville did not respond immediately to a request on
Thursday for details about the identity of the second reporter.
It was not immediately clear what a U.N. investigation would
entail and why Jammeh, who has long ignored international
appeals to secure Manneh's release, was turning to the world
body to deal with a matter that would normally be handled by
In November 2011, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin sent a letter
to Gambia's justice minister, Edward Gomez, appealing for
Durbin, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a
similar letter to Jammeh in March 2010, according to the website
of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
In October 2011, Gomez was quoted in a local media report as
saying that Manneh was alive but was not in the custody of the
CPJ, which has criticized Gambia for attacks on the press
and Jammeh for publicly vilifying reporters, says Manneh was
sighted in government custody in December 2006 and in July 2007.
According to CPJ, a leading press-freedom watchdog, Gambia
has resisted international appeals to free Manneh by, among
others, six U.S. senators, the U.N. Education, Scientific and
Cultural Organization, and the Court of Justice of the Economic
Community of West African States.
Amnesty International is among the human rights groups that
have called on Gambia to release Manneh.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Eric Beech)