A United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has issued a damning report that provides evidence of gross violations of human rights in The Gambia.
Juan Mendez’s report comes at a time European Union leaders are contemplating on whether to approve 150 million euros of aid to the West African country. The bloc last year denied some 13 million euros in aid to The Gambia, citing the Jammeh government’s poor human rights credentials.
Mr. Mendez was in November last year denied access to maximum security wing of Mile 2 Central Prison where death row prisoners are held in solitary confinement. But The Gambia government’s denial did not stop Mendez to make his findings known to the public. He cited a high risk of torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. The report also lampooned the lack of accountability of the country’s law enforcement and security forces.
In a report dated March 2nd, the UN noted that “the special rapporteur observed a layer of fear that was visible on the faces and in the voices of many he met from civil society.” Forty-three people who have been on death row are denied visits by lawyers and families, the report stated.
“The restrictions imposed on the special rapporteur by the government during the course of this visit are unprecedented since the establishment of the mandate 30 years ago,” the report concurred, alleging serious violations of international standards in the prison system. This included overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, insufficient access to medical care and poor sanitation.
The report said “these sub-standard conditions constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”
The UN report also documented testimony of detention without trial for months and torture by the National Intelligence Agency.
The authors of the report would not understand why a country whose economy has been ravaged by a significant drop in tourist arrivals mainly because of the Ebola outbreak refused to improve its human rights record in exchange for foreign aid.
The report also touched on the failed December 30th coup, with the Special Rapporteur citing the unconfirmed arrest and attention of at least 50 people. The detainees included families of the alleged coup plotters held by the NIA.
The Gambia government is yet to react to the report.
Kairo News will try to make stories from the main parts of the more than 13,000 word report.