Human Rights

Gambia accused of illegal detention

By Kemo Cham
As Gambia defends its human rights record at the on going United Nations sanctioned

Universal Periodic review, President Yahya Jammeh’s government has come under increasing pressure, with revelations of extrajudicial practices coming from all corners. Human rights groups are leading the fray in calling for action against the Gambian government.
Amnesty International and the Nigeria based Women Advocates Re-search and Documentation Centre (WARDC) have become the latest to scold the Gambian government which they accused of having secrete detention facilities across the country, where they allegedly illegally detained people without trial. According to Amnesty International, the human rights situation in Gambia has worsened since the foiled alleged coup plot in March 2006.
In a statement published by This Day, a leading newspaper in Nigeria, both Amnesty and WARDC alleged that Nigerians and other Africans are being held without trials in secret maximum security cells in the country.
The central prison of Mile 2 is named as one of the places fitted with secrete detention centers where these unidentified prisoners are kept.
The advocates are calling on Nigeria to use the on going UN human rights confab to demand from President Yahya Jammeh’s government an acceptable attitude towards its treatment of people in Gambia.
This statement follows a similar one issued by human rights groups in Ghana, on Tuesday.
According to the statement by Amnesty International and WARDC, even military barracks have secrete detention centers, with a number of others scattered in some unknown remote police locations across the country.
The statement quotes the Director of WARDC, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, as saying, ‘‘Nigeria has a role to play in bettering the situation [in Gambia] considering its position in continental affairs.’’
The human rights advocate therefore called on the Nigerian government to ensure that the Gambia review is used as an opportunity to address compensation for victims of torture and to obtain guarantees that there will be no repeat of such serious human rights violations.
Mr Akiyode-Afolabi went on to highlight the Gambia government’s harrowing treatment of its own citizens, saying, “In March 2009, Amnesty International documented the cases of up to 1,000 people from Foni Kansala District who were taken to secret detention centers by National Intelligence Agents (NIA) and the President’s personal guards,” he said.
Foni Kansala happens to be the area where the president himself comes from. And the case in question is the highly condemned witch hunt saga that saw many people allegedly maltreated by some Gambian security agents.
‘‘They were reportedly forced to drink hallucinogenic liquids and confess to witchcraft.  Many reportedly have serious kidney problems; at least six have died” the statement said.

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