Dakar, 22 April 2016- Last week’s tragic events demonstrate once again that The Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by a blind dictator whose reputation is sullied since more than 20 years, by a macabre record in human rights violations.
On 14 April 2016, Solo Sandeng, a prominent leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), and other members organized a peaceful protest demanding electoral reforms and the exercise of freedom of expression in advance of December’s elections. According to several witnesses, Sandeng, 57, Fatoumata Jawara, a young UDP leader and over 20 members were arrested by the security forces who have severely beaten and brutalized protesters. Fatoumata Jawara is believed to be suffering from serious injuries due to ill-treatment while in detention. The UDP leadership claimed that Sandeng died after being tortured by agents from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
We, civil society and human rights organisations signatories of this Statement, strongly believe that Solo Sandeng was tortured to death. Several other detained protesters were also tortured by the security forces.
On 16 April, Ousainu Darboe, the UDP leader and some members of the party’s Executive peacefully gathered again to demand justice for Sandeng, and call for the immediate release of detained party members. The police reacted violently and used tear gas against protesters among whom 27 UDP members were arrested, bringing the number to 50 arrested since 14 April.
On 21 April, our organizations have learnt that 37 UDP members including the leader Ousainou Darboe appeared before a court and were charged with unlawful assembly, incitement of violence, assembly without a permit, interference with the traffic and uproar. However the following four UDP members did not appear before the court: Solo Sandeng, Fatoumata Jawara, Modou Ngum and Nogoi Njie.
There is a prevailing climate of fear and terror since more than 20 years. Journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens are targeted. Freedom of expression is at risk. Several people are still held incommunicado. It is difficult to know their exact number. The country uses the military court which still hands down death sentences. Gambian authorities violate international human rights standards.
1- Our organizations call on President Yahya Jammeh:
– To shed light on the death in detention of Solo Sandeng
– To drop all charges against peaceful protesters
– To release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience
– To promote the free exercise of fundamental rights
2- We also urge ECOWAS and the AU:
– To systematically raise the Gambia’s negative human rights record
– To implement strong measures against Gambia to respect its international human rights obligations
3- Finally, we encourage the international community:
– To impose targeted sanctions against President Yahya Jammeh, his government and his family
- Cicodev Afrique
- Conseil des Organisations non Gouvernementales (CONGAD)
- Forum Social Sénégalais
- Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits de l’Homme(LSDH)
- Rencontre Africaine pour les droits de l’homme (RADDHO)
- Syndicat des professionnels de l’information et de la communication du Sénégal (Synpics)
- Société Internationale des Droits de l’Homme section Sénégal (SIDH)
- Y’en à Marre
- Coalition for Change Gambia (CCG)
- Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA)
Regional and International
- Amnesty International
- ARTICLE 19
- Institut Panos Afrique de l’Ouest (IPAO)
- West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN)