SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 31, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of the Gambia

Region & Country:Western Africa | The Gambia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 31, 2018, Gambian authorities reportedly arrested Ismaila Ceesay, a professor of political science at the University of the Gambia, for “jeopardizing national security,” apparently based on his comments to the media about government policy.

In a recent interview with Voice magazine, Professor Ceesay reportedly criticized Gambian national security policies, commenting that some military officers “feel rejected by the administration,” which might result in “pockets of mutiny.” On the afternoon of January 31, police arrested Professor Ceesay, questioned him for several hours, and charged him with “incitement to violence” in connection with his comments. After Professor Ceesay was arrested, a group of journalists, activists and others held an overnight vigil outside the police station where he was held. The next morning, authorities released Professor Ceesay and dropped the charge against him.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and academic freedom — conduct that is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which the Gambia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arrests in retaliation for peaceful expression threaten the well-being of higher education communities, and undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.