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Friday, 08 November 2013 19:59(JollofNews) – Gambian human rights activist have renewed calls on the international community to take tough actions against the APRC regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
Mr Jammeh, who is regularly accused of rights abuses, has ruled the Gambia with an aura of mysticism and an iron fist since seizing power in 1994.
Earlier this year, his regime was singled out for its poor rights record in Britain's annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, which cited cases of unlawful detentions, illegal closures of newspapers and radio stations and discrimination against minority groups.
In an interview with Katharine Derderian, EU Foreign Policy Officer at Amnesty International's European Institutions Office, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, founder and coordinator of the ‘Coalition for Change – the Gambia’, an NGO seeking to challenge the Gambia’s leadership through non-violent action, described the human rights situation in the Gambia as deplorable and repugnant.
“It is now a well-known fact that we have a very repressive regime,” Dr Janneh said.
“Let’s start with free speech. It’s a regime that does not tolerate any form of dissent or criticism at all. The newspapers and radio stations have been relegated to reporting on sports on music programs. Even the slightest criticism of the regime could land a person in jail. Some have disappeared or been killed simply because they exercised their fundamental rights.”
Dr Janneh, who was sentenced to life at the notorious Mile Two Prisons in Banjul-for trying to organise an anti-government demonstration- but later released, added that the human rights situation in the West African nation is getting worst by the day with Gambians and their families ‘particularly those who dare to criticise the government or who are reported by their adversaries to the regime disappearing into thin air.’
He added: “We also have some of the worst prisons in the world. These are facilities where even bananas and mangoes are not allowed. The mortality rate within the prison system is high. The medical facilities are very poor and the folks who staff the medical facility in the prison are ill-trained.
“You have a mix of every kind of prisoners in our prison system. People who suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis, convicted murderers, drug dealers. All are lumped together in the same buildings. Those on death row are not allowed any visitation at all. So it is very horrible situation, and the Gambian Government has not allowed groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to have access to the facilities to determine the conditions for themselves.”
Dr Janneh, who was expelled from the Gambia and now resides in the United States, further added: “It is very unfortunate that the international community has not paid much attention to the situation in the Gambia. The president publicly makes all sorts of irresponsible statements about gays and lesbians and certain ethnic groups—hate speech which has consequences. He follows up threats with arrests. Youngsters simply cross-dressing just for fun have been rounded up, taken to prison and accused of homosexuality. Even worse, they have been paraded before national TV and convicted before even reaching court. These are all matters of concern that we think warrant tough actions.”
Alieu Ceesay, founder of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia called on the European Union, one of main development partners of the Gambian Government to put pressure on President Jammeh and his regime to respect human rights and civil liberties.
“There is a vast amount of financial support given by the EU to major infrastructure projects here which makes us believe the EU can have significant leverage on the human rights situation [in the Gambia],” he said.
“The EU can do this in many ways. They can use regional organisations like the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to put pressure on the Gambian government to respect human rights and civil liberties. Equally, they can use their influence internationally, which is a key point—we’ve seen the EU do this in other countries. The EU can lead the international effort to ensure there is reform in the Gambia.”
Banka Manneh, chairperson of Civil Society Associations - Gambia (CSAG,) a coalition of seven Gambian NGOs campaigning for human rights and the rule of law in the Gambia, called on the EU to work with Gambians to bring to an end the poor human rights situation in the Gambia.
Mr Manneh said: “The EU has a vested interest in seeing that the situation going on in the Gambia comes to a stop. First, because of the financial support mentioned earlier. Second, because once you have a democratic Gambia, the EU will have a really wonderful partner to make sure that our shared values are spread throughout the world. These are human rights, democracy and rule of law.”
Written by PK Jarju
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