UN Investigators Barred From Gambia’s Prisons

(JollofNews) – United Nations human rights investigators who were in the Gambia have been stopped from completing their investigations about the torture and killings of Gambians by the government of President Yahya Jammeh.

Christof Heyns and Juan Méndez, independent UN investigators for illegal killings and torture arrived in Banjul earlier this week, a few weeks after the Jammeh regime was heavily criticised for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva.
The Gambia initially accepted the UN officials’ terms of reference but then denied them access to certain prison areas. These include the security wing of Mile Two central prison where death row inmates and political prisoners are detained, often in solitary confinement for lengthy periods, and subjected to torture.
Special investigator, Christof Heyns, said in a statement that “an inference must be drawn that there is something important to hide”.
Both investigators said that, during their three day visit, they had “received many reports that there are paramilitary hit squads in the country”. They also heard allegations of the widespread use of torture by the Gambia’s feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
The investigators’ final reports on their visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in early 2015.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has described Gambia’s decision to prevent the UN officials access to the maximum security wing of Mile Two prisons as another blatant disregard for human rights.
“The UN’s human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a ‘consistent practice’ in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.
“Denying monitors access to the country’s prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide.Following stinging criticism by more than 62 countries at the UN last month, this blocked visit must serve to mobilise international pressure on the Gambia to end its use of torture to muzzle dissent. Such flagrant flouting of international human rights law should be impossible to ignore.”