Gambian authorities are arresting grassroots campaigners pressuring President Yahya Jammeh to cede power as the situation in the country worsens.
In Banjul, Ousman Ndow and Mustapha Joof were among a handful of people arrested by secret agents from the National Intelligence Agency days after President Jammeh put a moratorium on politically motivated arrests, detentions, and prosecutions.
Outside the capital, in the commercial city of Serrekunda, a crowd of defiant onlookers stopped ununiformed officers from arresting an unnamed young man from being arrested for wearing a #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt and chased away two men vandalizing a campaign billboard.
The deadline for President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow is looming. Many Gambians are fleeing the country increasing the threat level for a refugee crisis in neighboring Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.
The NIA has been responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention of countless people, including journalists, civil servants, students, and LGBT people.
Those detained for political reasons, including those perceived to support the opposition, who criticize the president or who highlight the current administration’s policy failures, and those implicated in coup attempts, are often subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, frequently carried out by the Jungulers.
The torture described by victims included severe beatings with wooden clubs, metal pipes, cables, electric wires, and fan belts (thick rubber belt used in automobile engines); near suffocation by tying a plastic bag over the head of the victim and near drowning by half filling the bag with water; trampling with boots; electroshock of body parts including genitals; and, dripping melted plastic bags onto the skin.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting from Human Rights Watch; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)