Gambia - Amnesty International Report 2008

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA

Amnesty International  Report 2013


The 2013 Annual Report on
Gambia is now live »

Head of state and government : Yahya Jammeh
Death penalty : abolitionist in practice
Population : 1.6 million
Life expectancy : 58.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) : 117/106 per 1,000
Adult literacy : 42.5 per cent

Human rights defenders, including journalists, remained at risk of arbitrary detention, torture and intimidation by security forces. Amnesty International staff members and a local journalist were briefly detained. People charged with treason were sentenced to long prison terms; others remained in detention without trial. Two people were sentenced to death.

Justice system

Arbitrary detention

  • Two Amnesty International staff members and Yahya Dampha, a local journalist, were detained by police on 6 October. The three were conditionally released on 8 October and their releases were made unconditional on 12 October. Soon after the staff members left the country, Yahya Dampha went into hiding in fear. Soon after, his family reported that members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had come to the house looking for him. Yahya Dampha and his family remained in hiding at the end of the year.
  • Seven perceived opponents of the government – including Chief Manneh, Kanyiba Kanyi, Momodou Lamin Nyassi, Mdongo Mboob, Marcie Jammeh and Haruna Jammeh – remained in incommunicado detention at the end of the year.

Former Daily Observer reporter Chief Manneh was sighted in police detention at various locations throughout the country and at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, prompting new concerns for his health. The government continued to deny involvement in his arrest or knowledge of his whereabouts. A case before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice demanding that the government present Chief Manneh was repeatedly ignored by the government, who refused to send representation.

  • Jisacha Kujab Ousman “Rambo” Jatta and Tamba Fofana, both arrested in September 2006 as suspected political opponents, were released in October.

Military and civilian treason trial

Three of the four people charged with treason and tried in a civilian court in connection with an alleged coup attempt in March 2006 were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment with hard labour in August. The fourth person was acquitted.

Four others – former NIA Director Foday Barry; two NIA officers, Yaya Bajinka, and Baba Saho; and a student – arrested in connection with the same case remained in incommunicado detention at the end of the year. They were charged with conspiracy to commit treason.

Two others – Musa Dibba and former director of the NIA Abdoulie Kujabi – also arrested in 2006, were released. Abdoulie Kujabi was allegedly tortured while in custody and lost an eye as a result. Musa Dibba’s passport was seized when he was released.

Ten former members of the military were sentenced to between 10 years and life imprisonment by the Military Court Martial at Yundum Barracks for their role in the alleged coup. Five others were released because of lack of evidence. Claims of torture and ill-treatment while in detention awaiting trial were made by at least one of the accused.

Freedom of expression

An increasing number of journalists went into hiding following intimidation, threats and harassment by the NIA and government officials. Others were arbitrarily detained for varying periods and then released on bail.

  • Mai Fatty, a human rights lawyer who often represented journalists, left the country seeking medical attention after a car accident which he believed to be an assassination attempt.
  • In April, Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist, was arrested at Gambia International Airport and charged with sedition for anti-government comments made in an interview she had given a year earlier. There were significant delays due to confusion about jurisdiction and the trial was continuing at the end of the year.
  • UN Resident Coordinator Dr Fadzai Gwaradzimba was expelled from the country in March after making comments casting doubt on President Jammeh’s claim to a gathering of foreign diplomats in February that he was able to cure those infected with HIV.
  • Five employees of the pro-government newspaper The Daily Observer – senior editor Sal Jahl, reporter and editor Ousman Darboe, Abdoulie John, Seedy Bojang and Lamin Dibba – were fired during the year. Two appeared to have been fired in connection with their portrayal of the President’s claims about his ability to treat HIV/AIDS.
  • The offices of The Independent newspaper remained under police surveillance and were not allowed to open throughout the year.

Death penalty

Two foreign nationals – Tambara Samba, a Senegalese woman, and Sulayman Bah, a Guinean man – were sentenced to death for murder within weeks of each other by the same court. The sentences came in the context of concerns over crimes committed by foreign nationals. An appeal by Tambara Samba was pending at the end of the year.

The Constitution provides for the death penalty, although death sentences are rare and must be signed personally by the President. Although the Constitution requires a review of the death penalty by 2007, no such review took place during the year.

Impunity

No developments were known to have taken place regarding former NIA Director General Daba Marena and four army officers – Ebou Lowe, Alieu Cessay, Alpha Bah and Malafi Corr – who reportedly escaped during a prison transfer in April 2006. There were fears that they had in fact been extrajudicially executed as family members had not seen or heard from them by the end of 2007. No independent investigation had taken place by the end of the year.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative lodged a complaint against the government to the African Commission with respect to the killing of 50 migrants, including 44 Ghanaians, in Gambia in 2005. No suspects had been brought to justice and the alleged perpetrators were thought to be in self-imposed exile at the end of the year.

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