Amnesty Gives Gambia Red Card

Baton-wielding Gambian leader/BBC photos

The UK-based human rights group has issued a red card to the Gambia government for its failure “to improve on its human rights situation.”

Amnesty International (AI) says the West African country’s human rights situation has deteriorated since the Gambia’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010. “The government continues to stifle freedom of expression and commit other human rights violations with impunity,” AI says in its newly published report.

The group blames the Gambia government for its failure to ratify important international human rights treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, despite being committed to do so in 2010.

“The government has submitted overdue reports to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2012 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child 2011,” AI writes, scolding the Gambia for not submitting “other overdue reports, including to the Human Rights Committee, despite the commitments made at the review in 2010.”

The Jammeh regime also refused to allow visits and requests by both Special Procedure mandate holders and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, punishment extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in 2012.

The report also faults the Gambia for executing nine death row inmates in 2012, despite its acceptance of the recommendation to “fight resolutely against the practice of arbitrary or summary executions” and to consider moving towards the abolition of the death penalty. Amnesty worries about President Jammeh’s declaration of “a conditional” moratorium on the death penalty, which depends on the rise and fall of crimes.

The group expresses concern about the death penalty as a punishment for crimes of murder, terrorism and treason.  It cites the Supreme Court’s October 2012 interpretation of Article 18 (2) of the 1997 Constitution to mean that “the administration of toxic substance that must result in death” and not the offence involving violence. It further held that violence “does not have to be actualised; it is sufficient if violence is intended.” This interpretation seems to broaden the scope of application of the death penalty in the Gambia.

The Gambia maintains its rejection of key recommendations of its first UPR to promote and protect to freedom of expression and to take concrete measures to protect human rights defenders and journalists. The country’s enactment of the Criminal Code Act and the Information and Communication in 2013 further restricts the right to freedom of expression.

The Gambia has not also honoured its commitment to avoid unlawful arrest and detention of human rights defenders and journalists.

“Human rights are guaranteed under the Gambian Constitution and the various international and regional human rights treaties ratified by Gambia. In practice, however, human rights are often violated with impunity and President Jammeh has on several occasions denounced human rights as a “Western notion”,” the AI report states.

“A draft law was developed in the period under review to establish a national human rights institution. However, several international observers have expressed concerns about its lack of independence and little progress has been made in bringing the draft law in line with the Paris Principles.”


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