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Gambia

    May 16, 2018

    The arrest of musician and activist Fumba Chama, also known as ‘Pilato’, is a shocking demonstration of how far the Zambian government is prepared to go to strangle all criticism and crack down on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    Pilato was arrested at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport this afternoon on his return home after spending four months in Johannesburg, South Africa. He left Zambia in early January after receiving threats in response to his song Koswe Mumpoto (rat in the pot), which was interpreted as criticising President Edgar Lungu and his ruling Patriotic Front (PF) ministers.

    A warrant for Pilato’s arrest was issued on 5 February after he failed to appear in a Zambian court on trumped up charges connected to his participation in a peaceful protest in September 2017.

    “The arrest of Pilato as soon as he arrived back on home soil is a shocking affront to justice. It shows the lengths to which Zambian authorities are prepared to go to stifle dissent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    February 15, 2018

    Following a historic ruling by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Court of Justice today which found that draconian media laws on sedition, false news and criminal defamation violate the right to freedom of expression in Gambia, Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher said:

    “Today is an historic day for Gambia’s journalists and human rights defenders who, for decades, have suffered torture, imprisonment or exile just for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    “These laws have done nothing but created a pervasive culture of persecution, violence, and injustice against those working in the media in Gambia under the regime of former President Jammeh. Today’s ruling should spur the new government to waste no time in repealing these laws, to ensure it meets its responsibilities under international and regional law, and to lay a foundation for a strong human rights culture.”

    “Our hope is that this ruling will also have a positive impact on other countries in West Africa where similarly restrictive laws are being used to prosecute journalists.”

    Background

    July 07, 2017
        Those responsible for the enforced disappearance and death of Gambian journalist Ebrima Manneh must have nowhere to hide, Amnesty International said as its supporters from around the world are today sending solidarity messages to his family, holding vigils and releasing a video with a call for justice.   Today marks the 11th anniversary of Ebrima Manneh’s disappearance, following his arrest by officers believed to be from Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency. In January this year his family was finally officially informed by the police of his death, yet they still have no information about what happened or who was responsible. The family are not able to perform burial rites, as they do not know the whereabouts of his body.   
    January 19, 2017

    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."

    Background

    January 18, 2017

    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.

    December 02, 2016

    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."

    Background

    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. 

    October 26, 2016

    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”.

    June 02, 2016

    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.

    April 18, 2016

                                 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. 

    April 16, 2016
    Authorities in Gambia must immediately investigate the death in detention of a well-known political activist and release all other peaceful protestors who have been detained, Amnesty International said today.   According to information received by Amnesty International, Solo Sandeng, the National Organizing Secretary of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), died in detention shortly after his arrest for participating in a peaceful protest. The circumstances of his death are as yet unknown.   Another UDP member, Fatoumata Jawara, is also detained and is believed to be suffering from serious injuries. The cause of her injuries is unclear but Amnesty International is deeply concerned for her welfare. Both opposition members were arrested by the police on Thursday 14 April following a peaceful protest in advance of December’s elections.    
    March 09, 2016

    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.”

    July 24, 2015

    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.

    July 21, 2015

    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.”

    May 27, 2015

             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.

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