By Omar Bah
Amnesty International has said perpetrators of human rights violations in The Gambia should be prosecuted following concerns from civil society that members of Jammeh’s regime who admitted to their crimes are still in the security apparatus. In its 2021 report on The Gambia, the rights body said:
“The establishment of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission was a crucial first step towards fighting impunity. But it cannot be judged a success if the government fails to effectively implement its recommendations.”
The rights group also used its 2021 human rights desk report to accuse President Adama Barrow of failing to fulfill his campaign promises to reform the country’s oppressive laws curtailing human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which were used under Jammeh to suppress peaceful dissent.
According to the report, the Gambia Press Union recorded more than 15 assaults on media professionals in the past four years.
“There is still no new constitution. What’s more, the current parliamentary session, which represents one of the rare opportunities to make significant legal reforms and changes consistent with the country’s international human rights obligations before the presidential election in December, is expected to end by next week,” the report added.
The report also highlighted the case of Madi Jobarteh and the closure of local radio stations King FM and Home Digital FM by police after they covered a protest that was violently suppressed by the police. “More attacks on journalists are feared as we are coming close to the elections. The country is increasingly polarized, especially because attacks are not investigated. In the last four years, we recorded more than 15 cases of assaults from police and supporters of political parties. Not a single one of those cases was prosecuted,” Amnesty quoted a GPU staff.
Reacting to Amnesty’s report on West Coast Radio, the Minister of Information Ebrima Sillah, said: “There are so many misleading comments in the report that require government clarification.”
Minister Sillah said the government has taken the bold step to review the country’s bad laws.
“We have presented these bills before the National Assembly which is meant to remove from our statute books all the bad laws that we thought are inimical to a truly democratic state. But at some point, it was extremely difficult to make progress in a number of areas because of political interest that actually comes along the way in some of these reform processes. The National Assembly has its processes and therefore, if they are going through their normal processes of scrutiny, the government cannot force on their throats what they cannot actually fast track,” Minister Sillah added.
He went on: “I think Amnesty International is speaking from the past and when they came to this country, they refused to come to my office for clarification.”
Minister Sillah said though some of the bad laws are yet to be repealed, the government has not used them against the media or activists.
On Madi Jobarteh, King FM and Home Digital cases, Sillah noted: “The security acted based on the emergency laws to contain a situation that they feel could generate into violence. But the government had intervened to discontinue the cases so it is erroneous to say that human rights defenders are at risk in this country.”