On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of his accession to power, through a military coup in July 1994, President Jammeh declared an Amnesty and a pardon to certain categories of prisoners and to Gambians living abroad. The categories include those convicted of Treason from 1994 to 2013 and on death row or serving life sentences, those who raped women above the age of 20, those convicted of trafficking in hard drugs and those convicted of murder and have served a specified period of their prison sentences. Jammeh also extended his Amnesty to Gambians living overseas who are wanted for Treason and other offenses. He promised however, not to give Amnesty to prisoners who committed “heinous” crimes such as infanticide among others.
Let us remember that many of the “ex-offenders” released include those who have been detained without charge or trial, those who have had politically motivated trumped-up charges proffered against them, but also those who actively and publicly supported and carried out acts of brutality and torture against fellow Gambians. We dare suggest the list includes those who took part in drug trafficking for Jammeh personally, an allegation of substantial evidence, which we are sure will one day be a subject of court trial in Gambia. However we join fellow Gambians at home and abroad in sharing the personal joy of all those who have been released from prison, following their illegal incarceration, thereby enabling them to reunite with family and friends. CORDEG wish them all a speedy rehabilitation into gainful, active lives.
Overseas Gambians wanted for Treason and other unspecified charges, which cannot be substantiated in law or for which no tangible evidence exist have also been granted Amnesty. This includes any Gambian who has been known to attend demonstrations or protest matches against the regime overseas, those who had the temerity to apply for political asylum and those who have written or publicly spoken against Human rights violations and poor Governance, had been on a “wanted list”.
The so-called Amnesty is time specific and only applies to acts committed between 1994 and 2013. What of those who have been convicted of similar crimes between 2013 and July 2015? What about ex Navy Commander Sarr detained 5 years ago, Amadou Sanneh, the UDP National Treasurer? what about the disappearances of Messrs Ndongo Mboob and Buba Sanyang, Saul Ndow and Mai Cham, Alaji Ceesay and Ebou Jobe? What about Chief Ebrima Manneh and Deyda Hydara? The list goes on of Gambians known to have been abducted, disappeared or detained incommunicado, without being allowed due process. Most of the illegally detained individuals have never had their day in court; in flagrant violation of constitutional provisions. Those who have been abducted still remain unaccounted for and the murders of Deyda Hydara remained unresolved. We demand clarification of the whereabouts of all those unaccounted for.
We express deep concern about the fate of the Remains of those murdered in the Events of December 2014 and of those who were executed in August 2012? Families, next of kin and friends are still waiting to hear about this. The blanket and sudden act of what appears as benevolence on the part of the Jammeh administration, is in fact a poorly crafted, desperate act by a cornered dictator who is isolated and impecunious. The state coffers are empty, Foreign Direct Investment has since ceased to come Gambia’s way, development funding from the EU and bilateral aid has dried up.The Jammeh rhetoric about “chicken change”not dictating his ways and his lies about “Allah’s Bank” has all come to hunt dictator Jammeh. The Amnesty is an attempt to get Gambians at home to cheer him up as he faces 2016 Elections, for overseas Gambians to return in droves and for the international community to ease up financial blockades imposed on his regime. It is not an act of benevolence; dictators simply don’t do anything for nothing. Ghana has released over 900 prisoners on the occasion of their Republic Day and Senegal has released over 600 prisoners, none without fanfare and conditions. We are yet to hear the last of the prisoner releases in Gambia.
The parading of the released prisoners in Banjul city square has all been stage managed and choreographed to give maximum publicity for Jammeh to harvest political capital within and outside of Gambia. The speeches by the released prisoners heaping praises and prayers on Jammeh are the desperate acts of a class of people who have been locked up at the notorious Mile Two prisons and other unclassified and illegal detention centres dotted across the country, for long periods in poor sanitary and dietary conditions These detention centres are known internationally as a dens of torture and places of gross human rights abuses. Jammeh and his interior Minister have warned those released and their families to stay on the “right side” of the law for ten years or else face trouble and a possible return to these notorious and illegal detention centres. If the main legal implication of a genuine Amnesty is for the law to “forget” or be “oblivious” of the convictions and sentences imposed by law, president Jammeh’s above threats makes a complete nonsense of his claimed “Amnesty”.
CORDEG is concerned that there are still draconian laws in place, which can be employed at any time to silence any Gambian on the ground that shows the slightest sign of dissent. These include “giving false information to a public official….” tarnishing the image of the Gambia, neglect of office and aggravated homosexuality, acts which are ill-defined and which carry extensive jail terms. Any genuine Amnesty accorded to opponents must first address legislation which restricts political activity, press freedom, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. In the absence of this, Jammeh’s Amnesty rings hollow. It comes hard on the heels of reinstating the death penalty after a short moratorium, legislating Electoral Reforms which restricts the democratic space even further and practically prices all but the few very wealthy Gambians out of the franchise. The Electoral Reform Act 2015, which has apparently been secretly signed into law by President Jammeh, imposes amongst other undemocratic conditions, unjustifiably high financial deposits, in order to enter the fray and contest for political offices; sums of monies, which are beyond the reach of the vast majority of working adults.
CORDEG reiterates that the prevailing political, social and economic conditions in the Gambia are untenable and that president Jammeh and his APRC government have long since lost the moral authority to govern the country and must therefore resign immediately to avert a total meltdown and fail state status; Amnesty or no Amnesty, Pardon or no Pardon. This desperate act of apparent “forgiveness” will not change the poor governance and abysmal human rights record that has come to characterise Jammeh’s government.
CORDEG demands that the remains of the allege victims of the 30 December 2014 attempted coup be released to their families without further delay and to comply with the laws and internationally signed protocols
CORDEG also demands the release of all political prisoners, all those detained without charge or trial. We demand a clear statement on the fate of all those Gambians who have disappeared without trace since 1994. And we demand the revocation of all laws that restrict freedoms enshrined in the 1997 national constitution, all UN, AU and other multilateral treaties, conventions and charters guaranteeing fundamental human rights.
CORDEG demand for the withdrawal of the recently passed Electoral Reform Act 2015, and substituted with an all-party Protocol that conforms to internationally ratified Conventions and ECOWAS Protocols on Governance and Conflict Resolution.
Professor Abdoulie Saine