As European Union representatives and Gambia government prepare to hold discussions on the human rights situation and development program of the West African nation, the son of a senior opposition leader, who was tortured to death while in custody has written to EU leaders demanding the release of his corpse and transparent investigation into his death with another opposition activist.
EU Parliamentarian Judith Sargentini said they will not be meeting Gambian President Yahya Jammeh who in May rejected calls from the UN and Amnesty International to investigate opposition UDP Organizing Secretary Ebrima Solo Sandeng’s death.
Sandeng’s son, Muhammed said though court documents showing an affidavit from the country’s National Intelligence Agency say his father has died, Gambian authorities have refused to give them the body for proper burial.
Two months after Sandeng’s torture-death, another opposition activist, Ebrima Solo Krumah died in custody after visitation requests by his family were denied and was taken into surgery.
“I am pleading with the EU to seek answers and bring some closure to my family. We need answers and we need to bury our father the right way,” Muhammed Sandeng said.
In April, the UDP’s Organizing Secretary Ebrima Solo Sandeng led a handful of protesters to the Westfield Square demanding electoral reform. They were stopped by the police who later arrested him. Sandeng with at least a dozen others were tortured leading to his death.
Reports of his death forced UDP leader Ousainou Darboe with his executive to march to the police station to demand Sandeng’s release – death or alive. They were met with brute force by the riot police some 500ft from the U.S. Embassy in Banjul.
Police fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse them and were seen beating those getting arrested.
More protests mounted daily leading to more arrest in May. Darboe with at least 50 others arrested during the protests have all being sentenced to a three-year prison term after they refused to participate in the politically motivated trial. President Jammeh accused them of trying to use their right to protest to oust his regime and now, the UDP party’s presidential hopeful said he has had enough of the abuses from Gambian authorities.
Amnesty International said Sandeng was detained many times by Gambian authorities. Activists said the EU, which is withholding more than 30 million Euros in development and budgetary aid to The Gambia must not release the funds until Banjul takes corrective actions over its human rights situation.
“The European Union should be resolute and firm in dealing with Yahya Jammeh’s brutality,” said opposition activist Ebrima Sillah.
Activists say EU may be culpable if they provide assistance to Jammeh’s administration and urge the union to apply targeted sanctions on his regime.
Banjul rejected a 17-point EU resolution on rights, freedoms and governance in 2013, staging a protest against the EU demands.