Gambia: 22nd July 1994 - 22nd July 2014 - 20 Years of Fear in Gambia
Most basic human rights are; To have a fair and independent trial and not be enslaved by a person or persons.
On 22 July 1994, a group of military officers led by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh overthrew President Dawda Jawara, who had been in power in Gambia since 1970. Yahya Jammeh, supported by the army, proclaimed himself President of the Republic and, over time, took direct control of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.
The Gambian government tolerates no dissent and commits serious human rights violations. Human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents and other Gambians who are critical of government policies continue to face intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, ill-treatment, death threats and enforced disappearance.
Some of the human rights violations recorded over the last 20 years include the killing of 14 protesters in April 2000, the killing of journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004, the enforced disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh in 2006, the torture of journalist Musa Saidykhan in 2006, the arbitrary executions of 9 prisoners in 2012, and the "incommunicado" detention of human rights defender Imam Baba Leigh for five months of the same year.
The Gambian government has repeatedly failed to comply with several rulings by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, including refusing to compensate Musa Saidykhan, and the families of Ebrima Manneh and Deyda Hydara.
The justice system has also been weakened since President Yahya Jammeh came to power, undermined by interference by the Executive and increasingly repressive legislation aimed at muzzling dissent.
For example, in April 2013, the National Assembly passed amendments to the Criminal Code increasing sanctions for "giving false information to public servants" (Section 114) from six months imprisonment and/or a fine of 500 Dalasi (approximately US$13) to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of 50,000 Dalasi (US$1,293).
Further, in July 2013, the National Assembly passed the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act providing that internet users, journalists and bloggers found guilty of spreading false news can be punished by up to 15 years in prison and may be fined up to 3 million dalasi (approximately US$74,690).
In this pervasive climate of fear, most journalists, human rights defenders and citizens are forced to practice self-censorship or to flee the country.