In the wake of increased repression in Gambia, calls are intensifying for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to send a team of investigators to examine cases of gross human rights abuses mounted by security forces against peaceful protesters.
“The ICC has to look into the case of Solo Sandeng and others who reportedly died from torture after being arrested for organizing a protest march. This is part of pre-election violence,” Gambian activist lawyer Assan Martin told this reporter.
On Thursday 14, a group of Gambian youths took to the streets of Serrekunda holding banners bearing the slogan “We Need Proper Electoral Reform”. Paramilitary forces backed by plainclothes officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) launched a full-scale crackdown on the protesters causing the subsequent arrest and torture to death of Solo Sandeng and three other protesters. Additionally, 37 people were arrested including lawyer Ousainou Darboe of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) and charged with “unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, and holding a procession without a permit” by Banjul High Court.
“What happened in Thursday falls under the category of pre-election violence engineered by security forces in the run-up to December 2016 polls. The ICC should exercise its prerogative to establish the truth about the death of opposition party members, ” lawyer Martin added.
Adding his voice to the chorus of recriminations, the Secretary General of the Dakar-based human rights watchdog Aboubacry Mbodji emphasized the need for justice to prevail in the recent political repression. “We must bring to justice those responsible for death of three opposition party members. They can’t go scot-free,” RADDHO Secretary General Aboubacry Mbodji told this reporter in an interview.
Meanwhile, a group of female campaigners nicknamed Gambian Suffragettes has launched a petition to “end all forms of human rights abuses in The Gambia. “We are a group of Gambian women with the goal to put an abrupt end to the tyranny of a regime that has been in power for twenty-two years,” reads the preamble of the petition obtained by this reporter.
The female campaigners also made it clear that any society attacking women and children has crossed all boundaries. “We demand the immediate release of Fatoumata Jawara, Fatou Camara, Ngoi Njie and others whose identities are yet to be revealed by The Gambian government.”
Gambia has entered into an election year that seems to have triggered the use of ‘excessive force’ by security personnel. Fears are mounting about a possible escalation if the country’s judiciary fails to exercise justice..
Written by Abdoulie JOHN