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Gambia

    November 18, 2014

    The arrest, detention and torture of eight people since the beginning of the month as part of a crackdown on “homosexuality” by the Gambian authorities reveals the shocking scale of state-sponsored homophobia, Amnesty International said.

    “These arrests took place amid an intensifying climate of fear for those perceived to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa. 

    “This unacceptable crackdown reveals the scale of state-sponsored homophobia in Gambia. Intimidation, harassment, and any arrest based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity is in clear violation of international and regional human rights law. The Gambian authorities must immediately stop this homophobic assault”.

    Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.

    November 07, 2014

    Gambia has again demonstrated its blatant disregard for human rights by stopping a UN team from investigating allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, were denied access to detention centres where prisoners are believed to be at high risk of torture.

    “The UN's human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a ‘consistent practice’ in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force. Denying monitors access to the country's prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    The blocked visit comes just weeks after Gambia was heavily criticized for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN).

    October 28, 2014

    The Gambian authorities must heed a warning from the international community about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    This morning, 62 countries took the floor at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva to urge Gambia to promote and protect human rights. Concerns voiced by UN member states included Gambia’s unjustified restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and its renewed use of the death penalty.

    “UN member states have sent a clear message to Gambia that the government must end its rule of fear and repression,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s regional deputy director for West and Central Africa.

    “Gambia’s muzzling of dissent has had a devastating and chilling effect on human rights defenders, journalists and political activists, who have been persistently brutally targeted solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Today UN member states have said to Gambia: enough is enough.”

    September 10, 2014

    (Dakar, September 10, 2014) - President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia should not sign a new Criminal Code amendment that would increase the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality” to life in prison, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The measure would further add to the climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Gambia.

    Several provisions of the law violate international human rights law and amount to persecution on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sections of the law are similar to the harsh homophobic legislation that was annulled in August 2014 in Uganda.

    “President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Gambia’s National Assembly and the President should not endorse state-sponsored homophobia.”

    July 22, 2014

    The Gambian government must abolish the laws and iron fisted practices that have resulted in two decades of widespread human rights violations, Amnesty International said as it joined forces with other human rights groups for a global day of action marking 20 years since President Jammeh’s seizure of power.

    Activists across the world will hold protests and public events today to raise awareness about the dire human rights situation in The Gambia, where many live in fear of arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearance. In The Gambia, the anniversary is historically celebrated by the authorities as “Freedom Day”.

    "Today marks 20 years of the rule of fear in The Gambia, where the list of victims of human rights violations grows ever longer,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    “The Gambian authorities must investigate complaints made by victims of human rights violations and bring the perpetrators to justice. They should also repeal the laws which make this repression possible.”

    December 18, 2013

    The sedition convictions against three opposition party members in Gambia must be quashed and the authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said.

    Amadou Sanneh, National Treasurer of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and two other UDP members, Malang Fatty and Alhagie Sambou Fatty, were today convicted of sedition and sentenced to up to five years of imprisonment after claiming one of them had suffered harassment and death threats from the Gambian authorities.

    All three of those convicted allege they were tortured while being held incommunicado prior to their trial and two of them – who pleaded guilty in October – had no legal representation throughout their incarceration and trial.

    “These convictions confirm exactly what the opposition has claimed all along: that the Gambian government persecutes its opponents. Charges of sedition and false information are being used to curtail freedom of expression and legitimate dissent,” said Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    October 22, 2013

    Sedition charges must be dropped against three political opponents in The Gambia to make way for their immediate release, Amnesty International said, pointing to allegations the three men were tortured to “confess” on national TV.

    “In The Gambia, criticizing the government often carries an enormous cost. Forcing political opponents to ‘confess’ to crimes on national TV seems to be the latest callous strategy by the authorities to prevent anyone from criticizing them,” said Lisa Sherman Nikolaus, Amnesty International’s The Gambia researcher.

    The three men were arrested after one of them attempted to flee the country and claim asylum abroad last month. The men are held incommunicado, have no access to lawyers or their relatives and are believed to have been tortured.

    Malang Fatty was arrested at Amdallai Border Post by The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as he tried to leave the country on 19 September 2013. He was in possession of a document provided by the other men in support of his asylum claim.

    July 05, 2013

    A new bill in the Gambia which could impose lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines for criticising government officials on the internet is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    “By attempting to repress dissent even on the internet, the new bill takes the restriction of freedom of expression in the Gambia to a shocking new level.” said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    The Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013, means that a simple cartoon or satirical comedy could carry up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to of three million Dalasis (approx £54,500).

    While the bill imposes penalties for “Instigating violence against the government or public officials”, it also targets individuals who “caricature or make derogatory statements against officials” or “impersonate public officials”.

    May 14, 2013

    A Gambian activist detained by the authorities after peacefully expressing his views has been released – but there is still no news about a journalist missing for seven years, Amnesty International says.

    Imam Baba Leigh, a prominent Muslim cleric and activist, was freed after being held for more than five months at an unknown location after he publicly condemned the execution of nine inmates at Mile II prison in August 2012.

    He was arrested on 3 December 2012 by two National Intelligence Agency officers and told he was being taken to their headquarters for questioning.

    Imam Baba Leigh was effectively disappeared. He was never charged with a crime, was not brought before a court and during his time in detention and was not allowed contact with a lawyer or his family. Amnesty International adopted him as a Prisoner of Conscience.

    The reason for his release is unknown, but media reports indicate he was pardoned by the President.

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