Prisoners of conscience were detained for short periods. A group of at least 35 people arrested in October, who appeared to be prisoners of conscience, was held until the end of the year. At least seven members of the security forces continued to be held, most without trial. Seven others were sentenced after secret trials before courts-martial. One former senior official died in custody, allegedly as a result of torture; another died in suspicious circumstances, giving rise to allegations that he had been extrajudicially executed. The death penalty was reintroduced but not imposed. In February the Chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), Captain Yahya Jammeh, declared that the country would return to civilian rule in July 1996 – not at the end of 1998 as previously stated – under a revised constitution, to be put to a referendum. He also stated that there would be new electoral laws. It was announced that two leading members of the AFPRC had been arrested in January for trying to seize power because they were dissatisfied with the Council's decision to restore civilian power early. It was not clear whether they had in fact used force or had merely criticized government policy. Captain Sadibou Haidara died in custody in June and Captain Sabally was tried by court-martial in December (see below). In June the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was given far-reaching powers, including the authority to arrest and detain anyone suspected of threatening state security and to intercept their communications. In July the NIA searched the offices of the Daily Observer newspaper after it published an article referring to the military government's first year in power as a "chequered year". In July a Court of Appeal decision stated that there were no human rights laws in the Gambia. The statement was based on the fact that the human rights guarantees in the Constitution had been revoked by AFPRC Decree 36 of April 1995. The decision was delivered with reference to the case of Pa Sallah Jagne, one of the security detainees held since the July 1994 coup. His lawyer had challenged his detention on several grounds, including the argument that it violated his fundamental human rights. On 25 October extensive powers of arrest and detention were granted to the Minister of the Interior, retrospective to 22 July. They permitted detention for up to 90 days without an appearance in court and specifically removed the right to habeas corpus. In October journalist Chernor Ojuku Sesay was sent back to Sierra Leone after two days in custody, apparently because of articles he had written criticizing the treatment of Sierra Leonean nationals in Gambia. Chernor Ojuku Sesay had fled from Sierra Leone in April for fear of persecution and was held for five days on his return (see Sierra Leone entry). In October Chairman Jammeh, addressing a rally of his political movement, criticized people "who disguise themselves in the form of journalists…and human rights activists" and urged the crowd to "get rid of them". He also stated that those pressurizing the AFPRC about holding elections will go "six feet under" and that the AFPRC would not hold elections until they wanted to. In an effort to reduce the outcry which followed, the AFPRC issued a press release saying that reporting of the Chairman's speech had been unbalanced. However, this confirmed that his reference to "so-called journalists" had meant those being defended by outside organizations. Tanya Domi, director of the Banjul office of the US-National Democratic Institute, was expelled from Gambia in November on the grounds that her activities and utterances were "unhelpful", after she stated publicly that government attacks on the media "would undermine public confidence in democratic institutions and processes". The circumstances in which some military personnel died at the time of the November 1994 coup attempt remained unclarified (see Amnesty International Report 1995). New information suggested that at least 13 of those who died may have been extrajudicially executed. At least 10 prisoners of conscience were held for short periods. Pap Saine, publisher of the newspaper The Point, and two of its journalists, Alieu Badara Sowe and Brima Ernest, were arrested on 31 March and held for three days on charges of publishing material likely to cause fear and alarm. The charges referred to an article about prison disturbances. Their trial started in June and lasted until September when they were acquitted. In July Mariatou Faal-Njie was arrested after papers considered "seditious" were found in her office. She was held for two weeks before being released on bail. The trial, on charges related to documents critical of the government, started in September and was continuing at the end of the year. Lamin Waa Juwara, a former opposition member of parliament, was arrested twice for defying the government's ban on political activities. In June he was arrested with six other people, apparently after he visited four villages in his former constituency. The seven were held for a month without charge and then released with a warning not to undertake political activity. In October Lamin Waa Juwara was again arrested on account of his political activities and held for about 10 weeks before being released without charge. At least 35 people were arrested in October and held in a hangar at Fajara army barracks near the capital, Banjul, after government critics gathered to deliver a letter to foreign diplomats. They were denied visits from their families and experienced serious difficulties in gaining access to their lawyers. The authorities alleged that the detainees were supporters of the banned People's Progressive Party (PPP) and said that those arrested had been planning a demonstration in support of a return to power of former President Dawda Jawara. Twenty-five were charged with sedition and others remained held without charge. The legal basis for their detention was clarified retrospectively by the 25 October decree. They appeared to be prisoners of conscience. At least seven members of the security forces arrested in July 1994 remained held at the end of the year (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Three had appeared in court on various charges including theft and abuse of public office. Their trial was repeatedly adjourned. In June, seven soldiers were each sentenced to nine years' imprisonment on charges of mutiny in connection with the November 1994 coup attempt. Their trial apparently failed to meet international standards of fairness. They were tried in secret at Fajara army barracks in Bakau and were defended by military counsel. It was not clear whether they had a right to appeal. In September Captain Sanna Sabally, formerly Vice-Chairman of the AFPRC, appeared before a closed court martial at Fajara army barracks. He was charged with "lifting a weapon against a superior officer", namely the Head of State, in January. The government stated that Captain Sabally and former Interior Minister Captain Sadibou Haidara had forced their way into the President's office to seize power because they disagreed with the pending announcement of an early return to civilian rule. Other sources suggested they were arrested because of disagreements within the AFPRC. Captain Haidara, who was arrested with Captain Sabally in January, died in custody in June. There were reports that both Captains Sabally and Haidara had been ill-treated while in custody and that Captain Haidara may have died as a result. It was reported that a post-mortem examination concluded that he died as a result of long-standing high blood pressure which gave rise to kidney and lung problems. Captain Haidara's family disputed the results but the government rejected demands for an independent inquiry. Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay was found dead in June in the burned-out wreckage of his car. Despite repeated requests and their own declarations, the authorities did not organize any investigation into the cause of death. Unconfirmed reports suggested that he was killed by people close to the AFPRC before the car was set alight. In August the AFPRC issued a decree reinstating the death penalty which had been abolished in April 1993. No death sentences were imposed. Throughout the year, Amnesty International expressed concern to the authorities about the detention of prisoners of conscience, and the detention without charge and secret trials of other political detainees. It also appealed to the authorities to open an investigation into the deaths of the two former senior officials. Amnesty International urged the authorities to reconsider the decision to reintroduce the death penalty.

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