Gambia: referral to AU Executive Council a step in the right direction

In a landmark resolution adopted today, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) referred the Gambia to the African Union Executive Council for “consistent failure” to comply with the Commission’s previous recommendations on addressing human rights violations.

The resolution, adopted at the ACHPR’s 59th session, condemned the Gambia for continued violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

This resolution and referral is a testimony of the seriousness of the situation in the Gambia, where continued violations have been met with impunity over the past two decades,” said Fatou Jagne Senghor, Regional Direction of ARTICLE 19 West Africa.

At a panel held during the session, Gambian human rights activists had appealed to the Commission for help in their fight against ongoing repression and impunity.

The Gambia has been known for the brutal repression of journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents, despite being host of the African Union human rights body.  In advance of Gambia’s 1st December presidential election, security forces have arrested more than 90 opposition activists for participating in peaceful protests.

The resolution called for the release of thirty opposition members who have been sentenced to three-year prison terms, and highlighted the deaths in custody of two opposition members. They included UDP National Organizing Secretary Solo Sandeng, who was beaten to death at Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency in April.

The resolution also called for an independent investigation into excessive force used against protestors, and violations against female protestors.

 “We welcome such a timely resolution as a step in the right direction, and call on the African Union to take urgent action to address the issues raised in the resolution and the dire situation that continues in the Gambia,” Fatou said.