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New Report Calls for US Sanctions for Rights Abuses in Gambia

FILE - Yahya Jammeh, president of Gambia, speaks to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2014.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is calling on the United States to ban individuals responsible for corruption and human rights abuses in the Gambia from obtaining visas to the United States.

In a Gambia human rights report released on Thursday, the group also called on the United States to investigate President Yahya Jammeh, his immediate family members and senior Gambian government officials for misuse of public funds.

Jeff Smith, Africa specialist at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said since seizing power in 1994, President Jammeh has made Gambia one of the most repressive countries in all of Africa.

Smith said the human rights situation has gotten worst since the December 30, 2014 failed attempted coup.

“Thereafter we have found that uppers of 27 individuals believed to be family members and alleged associates of the coup plotters have been detained without charge and held incommunicado in Gambia’s notoriously awful prison system,” he said.

President Jammeh has accused “dissidents based in the U.S., Germany and U.K.” for the attempted coup. “This was not a coup. This was an attack by a terrorist group backed by some powers that I would not name,” Jammeh told a news conference recently.

The US government has charged two men with conspiring to help overthrow the Jammeh government.

Papa Faal, 46, a former U.S. Army sergeant with ties to Gambia, was charged along with Texas businessman Cherno Njie and others of trying to carry out a coup to make Njie interim leader of Gambia.

Faal pleaded guilty in a Minneapolis court to both counts and was remanded into custody, according to court records.

The report said Jammeh’s latest nationwide crackdown has also driven several people into “forced exile.”

It also detailed years of “murder and arbitrary executions, torture, disappearances and incommunicado detentions, and violations of freedoms of expression, association, and other basic human rights.”

Smith said the status quo is no longer sustainable given the level of human rights abuses in the Gambia in the past two decades.

He hoped the report will get the United States, United Nations and the African Union to be proactively involved.

“No. 1, they can provide travel restrictions for President Jammeh, his inner circle and members of the military and security forces who have been complacent and ordered human rights abuses. This will include visas ban and travel restrictions,” Smith said.

The report also called on the United States to consider freezing President Jammeh’s assets.

“As many people are aware, he (Jammeh) owns a $3.5 million dollar mansion here in the States not very far from Washington, D.C. in Potomac, Maryland,” Smith said.

The report also called on the US government to review all foreign assistance to the Gambia to ensure effectiveness of aid and “non-determination of its disbursement”.

It called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Gambia to closely monitor and provide recommendations on the human rights situation in the country.

The report recommends that the U.N. Secretary General issue a public statement condemning the increasingly “repressive measures implemented by the government of the Gambia.”

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