Rights groups say Gambia’s crackdown on opposition voices needs international attention

Rights groups say Gambia’s crackdown on opposition voices needs international attention

Rights groups said the outcome of The Gambia’s government attempt to subdue dissident voices may be disastrous and deserves heightened scrutiny.

Article 19, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch raised threat levels to freedoms in The Gambia citing a crackdown on independent and opposition voices ahead of the country’s critical December polls.

“The situation in the Gambia is gravely concerning: the crackdown on independent and opposition voices continues unabated ahead of elections, and deserves heightened scrutiny from this Council,” said Article 19’s Andrew Smith.

The rights groups requested the UN Rights Commission to urge the Gambia Government to release the UDP leader and all political prisoners and conduct an investigation into the killing of two opposition members: Solo Sandeng and Ebrima Krummah.

The Gambia’s president in May refused calls from Amnesty International and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to investigate Mr. Sandeng’s death and warned the international community to refrain for attempting to interfere in the country’s domestic crisis.

“I will not investigate,” President Yahya Jammeh said. “Amnesty International and Ban Ki Moon can go to hell.”

Right groups have accused The Gambia of not just abuses but failing to fully implement standards they have committed to. The UN reported that political detainees have been tortured and denied medical care.

United Nations Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told a session of the Human Rights Council that his office is awaiting a response from Gambian authorities for a joint human rights mission.

The Gambia has since April has been under tense political environments following the arrest and death in custody of a group of opposition members who were protesting in demand for electoral reforms.

At least 50 people still remain in prison, after activits said they were “unjustly” prosecuted including UDP leader Ousainou Darboe and a U.S. citizen, Fanta Jawara, whose release the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has demanded.

This fall, Article 19 West Africa Director Fatou Jagne-Senghore said The Gambian government must be compelled to immediately release Ousainou Darboe and all the political detainees and put an end to this spiral of violence that will lead to further tensions ahead of an already compromised presidential election.

Gambians go to the polls in December with incumbent President Yahya Jammeh seeking a fifth mandate.

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