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City of Banjul
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Gov’t told to charge or release family members of State House attackers

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The global human rights watchdog said at least 30 people, including a 16-year-old boy, have been arrested and detained. 

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Of the fifteen attackers, who comprise former Gambian army officials, one serving Gambian army officer and two retired US army of Gambian descent, four were killed and one captured by the government forces, whilst at least ten have escaped. 

“The arrest and prolonged detention of family members of the alleged coup plotters, who have had no opportunity to challenge their detention, violates the basic legal protections provided for by the country’s constitution, as well as regional and international human rights law,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa said in a press release. 

“If the Gambian authorities want justice, they should either charge those arrested with recognisable criminal offences, if there are legitimate reasons for doing so, or release them. Keeping so many people detained arbitrarily would be more about instilling fear in the country than pursuing justice.”

Amnesty said besides those arrested, ‘several family members of suspected coup plotters have fled the country in fear of reprisals’ and called on the government to investigate as well possible violation of their rights. 

“This investigation must include the arrests and detentions that took place following the attempted coup,” said Steve Cockburn. “The Gambian authorities should provide unfettered access to detention centres, including those run by the military.

“The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Gambia is a state party provides in Article 6 that ‘every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person’. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained.”

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