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Gambia has made significant improvement in ensuring freedom of expression, jumping 22 places on the 2018 freedom of expression index of the Reporters Without Borders. 

Gambian president Adama Barrow who dethroned former autocrat Yahya Jammeh

The United States Department of State has released its 2017 Human Rights Report, recognizing the “significant positive changes” in The Gambia’s human rights records since the coming into power of President Adama Barrow’s administration.

The US said the democratic transfer of power (in 2016) resulted in significant positive changes in the human rights climate.

“There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year,” the report stated.

“The constitution and the law prohibit (torture), and there were no confirmed reports that government officials employed them during the year. The government publicly announced the State Intelligence Services would limit itself to its core mandate of intelligence gathering and analysis to safeguard national security. The intelligence agency was stripped of arrest and detention powers.”

The report also highlighted government’s release of 171 prisoners from the state central prison, a “majority of whom were political prisoners”.

The report also noted that National Assembly members repealed the state of emergency declared by former president Yahya Jammeh during the political impasse a few days after Jammeh flew into exile on January 21.

“The new administration made several significant efforts to create a more conducive environment for freedom of expression,” the report stated.

“The Justice Department conceded that the country’s sedition law and some provisions (pertaining to criminal defamation and false publication on the internet) of the country’s internet law were unconstitutional.”

Gambia has made significant improvement in ensuring freedom of expression. The country has jumped 22 places on the 2018 freedom of expression index of the Reporters Without Borders.

Gambia previously enacted legislation making both female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage illegal, although deep-seated cultural norms made the full eradication of these practices difficult.

Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies actively publicized the newly introduced laws in local communities.

Proceedings continued against nine former officials of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) charged with the torture of protesters arrested in May and April 2016 and the subsequent killing of Solo Sandeng, an official of the UDP party; as of November their trials were underway.

“The government took steps towards establishing a Truth, Reconciliation, and Repatriations Commission (TRRC), led by the Ministry of Justice, to probe human rights abuses that occurred during President Jammeh’s administration. The National Assembly unanimously passed a bill in December that formally established the nine-member TRRC and outlined its composition, objectives, and functions,” the report stated.

“Also in December, the National Assembly passed a bill establishing an independent National Human Rights Commission.

“The most significant human rights issues included: harsh and potentially life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women, including rape and FGM/C; trafficking in persons; and child labor.

“The government took steps to prosecute or punish some individuals who committed abuses.  Nevertheless, impunity and the lack of consistent enforcement remained problems.”

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