United States Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices yesterday at a press conference in Washington, DC. This includes the human rights report on The Gambia. The United States Congress requires the Department of State to produce these annual Human Rights Reports.
According to the executive summary of the report on The Gambia, “The most serious human rights abuses reported in the 2015 Human Rights Report for The Gambia include torture, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial and incommunicado detention; enforced disappearance of citizens; and government harassment and abuse of its critics. Officials routinely used various methods of intimidation to retain power.”
The report highlights that after a failed coup in December 2014, the government arrested an estimated 36 persons accused of involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government, as well as family members of alleged coup plotters.
The report took note of the following reported human rights abuses: poor prison conditions; denial of due process; restrictions on privacy and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and practice of religion; corruption; violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); early and forced marriage; trafficking in persons, including child prostitution; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; and child labour.
While acknowledging the steps taken by the government to prosecute or punish some individuals who committed abuses, the report made it clear that impunity and lack of consistent enforcement remained problems.
The report indicated that the constitution enumerates a full range of provisions and assurances for a multiparty democratic republic, but added that human rights organisations and opposition parties claimed the government repeatedly took steps to restrict the democratic space. It observed that the ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), continued to dominate the political landscape, winning an overwhelming majority of national assembly seats in the parliamentary elections in 2012 and local assembly seats in local elections in 2013. It pointed out that six of the seven opposition parties boycotted or otherwise did not participate in both the national assembly and local government elections to protest government intervention and intimidation of opponents; furthermore that civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.