Partisans of Gambian political prisoners protest at the Supreme Court for trial in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2016. REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon

Gambia: What happens to ‘unofficial’ detention centers?

Gambia’s government has not made mention of what it plans to do with secret detention centers used by former President Yahya Jammeh to detain political prisoners, prompting rights groups to call for President Adama Barrow to have them closed.

Since Jammeh’s ouster in January, rights campaigners called for investigations into allegations of torture, the closure of unofficial detention centers, and access to all detention sites by independent national and international human rights monitors.

Under Jammeh, so many people were detained unlawfully and tortured and activists say President Barrow’s government must send a clear signal that the era of illegal detentions, torture and a prison system built to instill fear in the population is over.

The previous government has secret detention centers dotted across the country, many of them close in villa-like structures among mansions in suburbs outside the capital, Banjul.

Those held at the unofficial detention centers were held in solitary confinement and subjected to serious mistreatment, including torture.

Barrow defeated Jammeh, who had held power since a 1994 coup and whose government had a long track record of using enforced disappearances, torture, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests to silence opposition voices.

His defeat of Jammeh brought hope for improved respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Barrow has released many people imprisoned simply for expressing their opinion. His government has pledged to ensure that Gambians will always be able to express their opinion or criticize the administration without fear of recrimination.

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