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Rights Group: Gambia Holding Friends, Relatives of Coup Participants

FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives for a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, Feb. 27, 2014.

Two rights organizations have accused the West African nation of Gambia of illegally holding dozens of friends and relatives of people accused of involvement in a coup attempt late last year.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Wednesday that Gambia has detained the friends and relatives without making clear their locations, and that elderly parents and a teenage son are among the detainees.

“Gambian authorities are ignoring basic human rights standards by detaining people incommunicado, raising grave concerns of enforced disappearance,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The rights groups urged Gambia to reveal the locations of the detainees and either charge them with an offense or release them.

The detainees are all linked to a failed attack on the Gambian State House in the capital, Banjul, on December 30, 2014. Friends, relatives, and associates of the attackers were detained in the days following the failed coup and have not been seen since January, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Relatives have told Human Rights Watch that they have been threatened with arrest if they continue seeking information about those who have gone missing.

In March, Gambia tried six of the participants in the coup, sentencing three to death and three to life in prison. The rights groups say they do not believe the suspects got a fair trial. They also note that the families of three men killed in the coup attempt have yet to receive the bodies of those men.

The rights groups say these conditions violate Gambia's obligations under its own constitution as well as those of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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