As Adama Barrow is scheduled to be inaugurated in Senegal this afternoon, Sabrina Mahtani Amnesty International’s West Africa Anglophone Researcher said:
"Today’s inauguration ceremony of Adama Barrow is a moment to remember the risks currently faced by Gambians, and also gives an opportunity to reflect on hopes for the future”.
“We must not forget the big promises Adama Barrow has made to free political prisoners, remove repressive laws, and bring Gambia back to the International Criminal Court”.
“As Gambians await a solution to the current crisis, the country's security forces must know that the world is watching and refrain from cracking down on those who wish to exercise peaceful dissent during this transition period."
Soldiers Arbitrarily Detained as Political Crisis Deepens
(Dakar, January 18, 2017) –President Yahya Jammeh’s declared state of emergency in Gambia provides no justification for a crackdown on peaceful dissent around the January 19, 2017 deadline for the new government to take office, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.
Since January 15, security forces loyal to President Jammeh have arbitrarily detained at least five officers and enlisted men suspected of opposing Jammeh’s bid to remain in office. Since Jammeh rejected the December 1, 2016 election results on December 9, Gambian authorities have arbitrarily arrested opposition sympathizers and closed four independent radio stations. The state of emergency raises fears of further repression against opposition supporters around the planned January 19 inauguration of president-elect Adama Barrow. Many Gambians have fled the country out of concerns for their security.
In response to announcement that President Yahya Jammeh has accepted his defeat following the presidential election, Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s Researcher for West and Central Africa currently in Gambia said:
“For many years the people of Gambia have suffered numerous abuses, including horrific human rights violations and oppression.”
"The last two weeks have shown how much Gambians of all parties value free speech. There is a huge obligation now for the future administration to transform the human rights situation in Gambia, freeing political prisoners, removing repressive laws and entrenching newly found freedoms."
Today the President of the Electoral Commission announced that opposition candidate Adama Barrow (Coalition 2016) has won yesterday’s election by more than 50,000 votes. President Yahya Jammeh (APRC – Alliance for Patriotic Reconstruction and Construction), has accepted his defeat.
Following the announcement yesterday by the Gambian Information Minister that Gambia has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa said:
“The announcement is a blow to millions of victims around the world, particularly coming as it does on the heels of recent moves by South Africa and Burundi to also withdraw from the ICC”.
“Rather than joining this drastic march away from justice, other African states should follow the lead of Botswana and many concerned African member states which have encouraged countries to work constructively with the Court to resolve any legitimate issues.”
“The Information Minister’s statement regarding the Court’s persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans could not be further from the truth. For many Africans the ICC presents the only avenue for justice for the crimes they have suffered”.
Authorities in Gambia must free dozens of political prisoners and end the brutal crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ahead of elections later this year or face suspension from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Amnesty International said in a new report published today.
Dangerous to Dissent: human rights under threat in Gambia, launched two days before ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government meet in Dakar and six months before Gambia’s presidential elections, outlines the brutal repression of opposition demonstrations in April and May 2016. Dozens of peaceful protesters and bystanders were beaten by police and arrested and 51 people, including the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and several members of the executive, are awaiting trial. At least 36 more people remain detained without charge and one man Solo Sandeng, the UDP National Organising Secretary, died in custody after having been tortured.
Reverse Worrying Spike in Repression
The suspicious death in custody of opposition political leader Solo Sandeng and the arrest of his party leader, Ousainu Darboe, and other party members in recent days underscore the repressive nature of the Gambia’s government, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and ARTICLE 19 said today.
The groups said the government of President Yahya Jammeh should ensure an independent and impartial investigation into Sandeng’s death, immediately release all peaceful protesters and free Alhagie Ceesay, a journalist arbitrarily detained since July 2015 and currently gravely ill in hospital.
Gambia should free an ailing journalist who has been arbitrarily detained since July 2015 and drop all charges against him, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the managing director of the independent radio station Teranga FM, has been charged with sedition and “publication of false news.” He has been hospitalized twice since the beginning of 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Gambia last week to release Ceesay and drop all charges against him.
“The use of archaic sedition laws to harass and lock up critics is a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.
“Alagie Ceesay’s case is a further example of Gambia’s blatant disregard for freedom of the press, and he should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
The release of at least 200 prisoners is a welcome step forward for human rights in Gambia, but should go further to release other prisoners of conscience still detained in the country, Amnesty International said today.
President Yahya Jammeh has this afternoon released at least 200 prisoners, following his promise made during a speech marking his 21 year anniversary in power on Wednesday. These include numerous prisoners jailed for treason, drug offences and corruption, a former director of the National Intelligence Agency, Lamin Bo Badjie, former Justice minister Momodou Lamin Jobarteh and former police chief Ensa Badjie. Many family members of people accused of being involved in December 2014’s attempted coup d’état were also released, after nearly six months in detention.
Posted at 0001hrs GMT 22 July 2015
The human rights situation in Gambia has deteriorated sharply during President Yahya Jammeh's 21st year in power, said Amnesty International on the anniversary of his 1994 coup d’état.
“The climate of fear which has blighted the lives of Gambians for more than two decades worsened over the last 12 months with journalists, people perceived to be gay or lesbian, and those considered to be opponents of the regime and their families increasingly targeted,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.
“A severe backlash following December’s failed coup attempt has seen a spike in the numbers of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. In a further worrying step, last Friday President Jammeh stated that those on death row should expect to have their sentences carried out.”
Reveal Whereabouts of People Arrested After December Coup Attempt
(Dakar) – Gambian authorities have detained incommunicado, depriving them of all contact with the outside world, dozens of friends and relatives of people accused of involvement in a coup attempt since January 2015, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. Those detained include women, elderly people, and a child, and many are believed to be in ill-health.
The government has refused to acknowledge the whereabouts or even the detention of many of them, effectively holding them outside of the protection of the law. This amounts to enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law. The Gambian government should urgently reveal their whereabouts and either charge them with a recognizable offense if there is sufficient evidence or immediately release them.
Death sentences imposed on soldiers accused of participating in December’s attempted coup d’état in Gambia are a cruel violation of the right to life and the right to a fair trial, Amnesty International said today.
A military court handed down death sentences to three soldiers and sentences of life imprisonment to three others following a trial on Monday 30 March 2015. The trial was held in secret; media and independent observers were barred from observing the proceedings.
"Gambia’s justice system is deeply flawed and we have concerns about the fairness of the trial, given that it was held in secret,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Many countries in West Africa are moving away from the use of death penalty and it is disappointing that the Gambia has not followed this trend.”
Gambia has effectively thumbed its nose to the international community after it failed to accept a raft of recommendations to address its deteriorating human rights situation, Amnesty International said today.
The government of Gambia only accepted 93 of the 171 recommendations at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva.
“The significant number of rejections on key human rights issues demonstrates the government’s weak commitment to addressing its deplorable human rights situation - including unjustified restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, enforced disappearances and the use of torture to stifle dissent,” said Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher.
“Human rights defenders, journalists and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex people have all been targeted, and Gambia’s human rights situation will continue to deteriorate unless the international community takes action to engage Gambia to strongly adopt the recommendations it rejected.”
Gambia’s recent passage of a homophobic law puts the already persecuted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community at even greater risk of abuse, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.
The new crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” which carries punishments of up to life in prison, is part of a criminal code President Yahya Jammeh approved on October 9, 2014, documents uncovered this week show. Among those who could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” are “serial offenders” and people living with HIV who are deemed to be gay or lesbian. Exactly what constitutes “homosexuality” or a “homosexual act” is not defined in Gambian law. That makes Gambia’s criminalization of homosexual activity – which already violates international law - even more likely to be used broadly and arbitrarily.