News / Africa

Activists Call for Gambian Government to Improve Human Rights Record

FILE - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh, Feb. 27, 2014.
FILE - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh, Feb. 27, 2014.
Jennifer Lazuta

Activists across West Africa held protests Tuesday on the 20th anniversary of President Yahya Jammeh's seizure of power to raise awareness about what they call Gambia's "dire" human rights situation. Human rights groups are demanding the Gambian government put an end to alleged repression, torture and forced disappearances. 
 
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal's capital to, in their words, raise awareness about ongoing human rights violations in Gambia.
 
Activists in other cities are calling for the Gambian government to revoke laws they say have led to a culture of intimidation, harassment and detention over the past 20 years.
 
“We are here to denounce 20 years of oppression, 20 years of lack of freedom in the Gambia, but also to show signs of solidarity for all the victims of human rights violations, especially those who have lost their lives, those who have disappeared, those that have been tortured and maltreated, and those that have lost their freedom and are in prison for just wanting to be part of the way their country is run and those that wanted just to express their views,” said Fatou Jagne, director of Article 19, an international organization that advocates for freedom of expression and access to information.

Blaming enemies

The Gambian government has previously denounced what it calls a "relentless smear campaign" by Western powers against its human rights record.

In a statement in October 2013, it said Gambia's "enemies" have set up organizations to spread lies and make what it called "false, outrageous and unfounded statements" about the state of human rights in the country.
 
But many Gambians say they have been subjected to years of oppression and fear since the 1994 military coup that brought President Yahya Jammeh to power.
 
Jammeh reinstated the death penalty and enacted restrictive freedom of expression laws, which, according to human rights defenders, are so vague that they can be used to charge anyone who expresses any sort of dissent.
 
Former Gambian political prisoner Amadou Janneh was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for distributing T-shirts that read “End Dictatorship Now.”  He is currently living in asylum in the United States.
 
“The Gambia today has one of the worst human rights records in the world and in almost every sphere of fundamental human rights you can be assured that the Gambian government disregards its own laws and you have severe violations in the area of freedom of expression," he said. "You have journalists who have disappeared, been killed, simply for performing their duties ...  The president does not allow any modicum of dissent in the country.”

Change needed

Amnesty International, which has documented the unpublicized executions of death row inmates and torture of human rights activists in Gambia, says it is time for things to change.
 
“We are really calling for the international community and the government of Senegal, but also the government of Gambia, to put an end to this regime of fear by repealing legal provisions in the criminal code which are used to restrict dissent, to release political prisoners and to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account and bring them to justice,” said Francois Patuel, Amnesty International’s West Africa campaigner.
 
Protesters gathered Tuesday in countries such as Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ghana, Togo, Senegal, and Sierra Leone to express solidarity with the Gambian rights campaign. 

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs