Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Gambia

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Author Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Publication Date 19 June 2008
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Gambia, 19 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4864667269.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

The party of President Yaya Jammeh, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, obtained a large majority in the legislative elections held in January 2007. Moreover, an amendment of the Local Government Act voted by Parliament on October 31, 2007 aims to extend once again the powers of the President by authorising him to dissolve municipal councils and to relieve councillors of their functions. It is in this context that, in December 2007, the two main opposition parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), brought an action before the Supreme Court to ban the Independent Electoral Commission from organising the municipal and rural elections planned for January 2008.

In addition, the Gambian Government is responsible for the considerable violations of fundamental freedoms that have increased since the attempted coup d'état on March 15, 2006. The Government, which hosts the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), and which in 2002 had not deigned to send representatives to the examination of its country situation by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, continued to restrict the freedoms of expression and of the press, to intimidate and harass defenders and to hold political prisoners in detention. In view of the repeated, persistent violations of human rights in Gambia, several African and international NGOs have led a campaign for many years calling for ACHPR headquarters to be relocated to a country that has greater respect for human rights.

In addition, freedom of the press has been greatly restricted since the National Media Commission was set up in 2002, the revocation of the National Media Act on December 13, 2004 and the adoption, the following day, of the Criminal Code Amendment Bill. The Commission is appointed by the Government and has the power to grant licences and to force journalists to disclose their sources of information.

An extremely hostile context for defenders

In spite of the feeling of vulnerability of human rights defenders with regard to the political climate in the country, the latter continue their denunciation of, inter alia, arbitrary detentions which go beyond the 72 hours' delay provided for by the Constitution for detainees to be presented before a judge. As an example, on October 6, 2007, two members of the international secretariat of Amnesty International and the Gambian journalist Yahya Dampha were arrested and placed in detention during their visit to detention centres. They were released on bail two days later, their passports were confiscated and they were obliged to report to the police daily, before being unconditionally released on October 12. At no moment were they given an explanation regarding the reasons for their detention. This illustrates the extremely hostile context in which human rights defenders operate in Gambia.

It is also worth recalling that the murder, in December 2004, of Mr. Deida Hydara, the Gambia correspondent for Agence France Presse (AFP) and for Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières – RSF), and the co-owner of the newspaper The Point, still remains unpunished. Mr. Hydara was known in particular for his commitment to the freedom of the press and to human rights, and had notably, a few days prior to his death, published two articles in his paper criticising the adoption of two particularly restrictive laws of the press that were secretly signed in December 2004 by the President of the Republic.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

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