The Gambia: On the Eve of a Presidential Election, HRF Demands Release of Pro-Democracy Activists
NEW YORK — Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the convictions of 19 activists for conducting a peaceful demonstration demanding an official explanation for the presumed extrajudicial killings of fellow activists. HRF calls on the Gambian government to vacate the convictions and release them immediately. The court declared the activists, including prominent opposition leader Oussainou Darboe, guilty of “unlawful assembly” and “conspiracy.”
“The arrest and conviction of Mr. Darboe and the other 18 activists is arbitrary, unlawful, and in violation of Article 25 of the Gambian constitution and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Gambia in 1979,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “With its actions, the Gambia has failed to comply with its own constitution, and has also failed to observe its obligations under international law. The convictions of Mr. Darboe and the other activists should be vacated and all of them should be released immediately,” he added.
In April 2016, Oussainou Darboe and several other activists started a demonstration demanding an official explanation for the arrests and alleged extrajudicial killings of numerous activists and members of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who, at the time, were calling for electoral reforms in anticipation of this year’s presidential election. Among the demonstrators was Solo Sandeng, a youth opposition leader rumored to have been killed in custody at the time. Shortly afterwards, Gambian armed forces violently dissolved the demonstration and arbitrarily arrested Darboe along with the other activists.
On July 20, 2016, the High Court of the Gambia found the 19 activists guilty of “unlawful assembly, riot, riotous interference of vehicles, holding a demonstration without permit, disobeying orders to disperse, and conspiracy.”
In a phone conversation with HRF, Mymuna Darboe, Oussainou Darboe’s wife, declared that “all detainees are being mistreated, with no exceptions made to older people suffering from health conditions.” Ms. Darboe further denounced that she saw her husband for the very first time two weeks ago, more than five months after his arrest. She reported that he has lost significant weight.
“For more than 20 years, President Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial regime has imprisoned, mistreated, and even killed opposition and pro-democracy activists. In an outrageous media interview, Jammeh recently went as far as to consider it ‘common’ for people to die while in custody in the Gambia,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Jammeh must stop the ongoing brutality against civil society and immediately release Mr. Darboe and all other political prisoners,” he added.
On Thursday, December 1, Gambians will go to the polls to vote in a presidential election that experts have already anticipated will be neither free nor fair and will simply rubberstamp a new term for Jammeh. President Jammeh — who calls himself Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa President of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces — has ruled the Gambia since 1994.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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TAKE ACTION. Send an email, or call:
• Calling on them for the release of Oussainou Darboe and the 18 other activists convicted on July 20, 2016;
• Urging them to ensure that the criminal justice system is not misused to target or harass human rights defenders.
CONTACT these two Gambian officials:
• Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Gambia to the United Nations. Telephone: (212) 949-6640, email: email@example.com;
• Sheikh Omar Faye, Embassy of the Republic of the Gambia in the United States of America. Telephone: (202) 785-1399, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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