A leading women’s rights organisation has expressed concern about the torture meted out to four women currently in state custody. In a statement, Gambia Committee for the Elimination of Harmful Traditional Practices (Gamcotrap) called for the release of all those detained in relation to peaceful marches on April 14th and 16th.
Find below Gamcotrap’s full statement:
The Current Human Rights Situation of Women in Prison in Exercise of their Political and Civic Rights in The Gambia
The plight of five women of the leading opposition party UDP held in custody since the 14th and 16th of April 2016 is of great concern to women’s rights activists and organisations. Three of the women namely Ms, Fatou Camara, Ms Fatoumata Jawara and Ms Nogoi Njai were picked up during a peaceful demonstration demanding for political reforms held on the 14th April 2016; while Ms Fanta Darboe was picked up on the 16th April 2016 during a solidarity march, while Ms Juguna Suso was said to have been arrested at the gate of the main opposition party leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe’s residence.
While GAMCOTRAP cannot give details of the case, however we have been intimated that these women are being traumatised on a daily basis. They have been reported to be in very critical situation as a result of brutal torture of various types while in custody. In their statements, these women reported that they have been subjected to physical assaults such as beating, strapping them tight with ropes to immobilise them while they are being tortured and threatened with rape, resulting to serious injuries that require urgent medical attention. The cases are now in court and heard separately as two cases:
The State Vs Lamin Sonko and 24 others, 14th April 2016 and the second being
The State Vs Ousainou Darboe and 19 Others, 16th April 2016.
As the presidential election slated for December 2016 draws nearer, the state is becoming more intolerant and repressive and the country is in a dire situation. The security forces, especially the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), have been noted to act against civilians in their custody with impunity.
We are concerned that the human rights of these women are being abused and that they are going through mental, physical and psychological torment and torture. We urgently call for their immediate release from unlawful detention and that they are granted access to medical services. Members of their families and their legal representatives should be allowed to have access to them while in custody.
Similarly, over 30 people associated with the peaceful protest marches, many of whom are also brutally tortured, are in their custody. There are some detainees who have not been brought to court. We demand that they be released or brought to the court as the others. The citizenry are denied any form of expression of solidarity towards a group or to organise themselves to raise issues about human rights and fundamental freedom of the people. Freedom of assembly as enshrined in the constitution of The Gambia is denied, and the security forces are encouraged to terrorise the population. Numerous roadblocks are set up on the road to the capital, Banjul especially on the days of the court hearings to avert or discourage any manifestation of public support to the detainees. Armed para military officers and other security officers line up to deter people from entering or getting close to the court house where the cases are being heard. This did not deter public support but has hindered the efforts of many others who want to go and give support.
As a women’s right organisation working on the cultural, social, political and sexual and reproductive rights and health of women in The Gambia we are very concerned and we kindly urge your institution to condemn the atrocities and put pressure on the state to release all these people whose rights are being abused in exercise of their fundamental constitutional rights as citizens.