The emissary of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa Mohammed Ibn Chambas pleaded with Gambian authorities to release at least 44 opposition supporters being detained including the main opposition leader Ousainou Darboe.
“I entreat the government to release the thirty protesters involved in the April demonstrations, as well as the fourteen others who are in pre-trial detention following the May demonstration,” Mr. Chambas said in Banjul.
Darboe was among those sentenced to three years in prison for taking part in an “unauthorized protest” demanding the release “dead or alive” of a senior opposition member Ebrima Solo Sandeng. Sandeng was among a handful of protesters in April demanding electoral reform at the Westfield Square, in a suburb outside the capital Banjul.
President Yahya Jammeh said UN Chief Ban Ki Moon and rights group Amnesty International “can go to hell” for demanding an investigation into Sandeng’s death, after confirmed reports that he was tortured in custody.
Chambas said it is also his expectation that in the post-election period, The Gambia’s government would conduct a review of existing legislation pertaining to the exercise of the right to assembly and peaceful demonstration.”
The Gambia is still prosecuting dozens of other opposition supporters for taking part in protests in and outside the capital, but defense attorney Borry S. Touray has challenged the police to explain why protesters at pro-government demonstrations were never arrested.
The protests saw a wave of violent crackdown on opposition activists in The Gambia and the UN on Thursday called for peaceful and inclusive elections in the former British colony. The Gambia is among three African nations that have announced it will be withdrawing from the International Criminal Court.
President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to remain in power and said no election, military or foreign power will be able to end his 22-year rule of mainland Africa’s smallest nation.