Gambian youth participants in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program, Photo: tostan.blogspot.com
Banjul, Gambia – Concerned by the worsening cases of human rights violations in West Africa in general and The Gambia in particular, two international human rights campaigners have raised the alarm over the violations.
The alarm was contained in a declaration made to the ongoing 54th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) here by the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) and ARTICLE19.
They expressed particular concern over the human rights situation in The Gambia, where civil and political rights (including freedom of expression and opinion) are constantly violated.
Secretary General of the Dakar-based RADDHO Aboubacry Mbodji said the Gambian government continues to violate the rights of its citizens in the name of justice or public safety.
“The Gambia is one of the few African countries where human rights violations are committed regularly at all levels of society with no legal recourse is granted to victims,” he said, citing the case of Imam Baba Leigh, who was released in May after over five months in detention.
He said RADDHO and ARTICLE19 also found serious and repeated violations of freedom of expression and opinion, as manifested in acts of intimidation and death threats against journalists, human rights defenders and activists engaged in the restoration of the rule of law , democracy and respect for human rights.
According to him, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the police often carry out arbitrary arrests.
Mr Mbodji also criticised the 3 July, 2013 Gambian National Assembly’s adoption of the (Amendment) to the Information and Communication Act – creating new offences in relation to online expression, punishable by 15 years in prison and/or a fine of D3 million (about 63,250 Euros).
“This law criminalises online expression and severely restricts the right to freedom of expression on the Internet,” he said. “In view of all the foregoing, it is clear that the Gambian government does not respect its commitments vis-à-vis the sub- regional community, regional and international matters of freedom of expression and opinion.”
He said for due to its human rights violation, the rights campaigners believe that the Gambian Government is disqualified from hosting the headquarters of the ACHPR, which is one of the most important mechanisms of the African Union (AU) to protect and promote human rights.