Gambia must drop treason charges against activists
Gambia must immediately drop treason charges against five activists, including three journalists and an opposition politician, Amnesty International said today.The five activists, including the former President of the Gambia Press Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh and Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former minister of Information and Communication, were charged on Tuesday in connection with the distribution of t-shirts calling for an “end to dictatorship in the Gambia’. Treason carries the death penalty in Gambia.The call comes as Amnesty International launches a major campaign detailing how cases of enforced disappearances are yet to be resolved, those involved in unlawful killings have not been identified and bought to justice, and torture is still widely used by the security forces. Most victims of enforced disappearances in Gambia are journalists, opposition party members or security force personnel. Investigations by the authorities rarely take place and perpetrators are not brought to justice. “President Jammeh must stop these acts of persecution,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme. “All charges should be dropped immediately. These people are being punished for peacefully expressing their views. Those in detention are prisoners of conscience, who should be released immediately and unconditionally.” Ndey Tapha Sosseh is currently living in Mali and was charged in absentia.“President Jammeh marks July 22 each year as ‘Freedom Day’ and yet Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by a government that ruthlessly quashes all forms of dissent,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director. “Instead of celebrating ‘Freedom Day’, the Gambian authorities must act to end human rights abuses and the culture of fear”, he added.Repression of the media has a long history in Gambia. The lack of independence of the judiciary in cases involving journalists and human rights defenders is also increasing. Amnesty International, along with civil society groups across Africa, has organized a day of action to protest continuing human rights violations in Gambia, including repression of the media.Extrajudicial executions have been routinely carried out in Gambia especially against members of the security forces who oppose the government. Amnesty International has also documented cases in which students, journalists and foreign nationals have been killed by security personnel.