Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a major report exposing the systematic human rights abuses perpetrated against Gambians by their tyrannical president Yayha Jemmah. The report comes at a time when international attention has shifted to the small, often overlooked West African country.

President Jammeh has ruled Gambia since a successful coup in 1994

The 81-page report titled “State of Fear: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Killings” explores the criminalization of dissent in the Gambia, the repression and disappearances of journalists, and the extrajudicial murder of Gambians between 2013 and 2015.

HRW described the Gambia as having a “pervasive climate of fear [that] has prevented human rights groups from investigating, documenting, and reporting on human rights violations by the government. The courts appear to be woefully underused by victims seeking redress because of perceived lack of independence of the judiciary and a widespread fear of government retaliation.”

The report added that it is widely understood that Gambia’s vicious security and paramilitary units take their orders from President Jemmah’s office.

Jeff Smith, the Africa policy specialist with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told a SaharaReporters correspondent that the HRW report’s timing is significant because it comes at a time “when the groundswell of interest in the Gambia is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

The HRW report “captures the state of fear ordinary Gambians are living in,” according to Smith. He added that the testimony collected by HRW “gave a broad narrative of the human rights situation” in the Gambia.

Smith told SaharaReporters that the international community needs to sanction President Jemmah and members of his inner-circle to end human rights abuses of Gambians. This includes, according to Smith, “implementing travel bans on [President Jemmah], his family, and his inner-circle.”

SaharaReporters also spoke with Amadou Janneh, the Chairperson for the US-based Coalition for Change The Gambia (CCG), who told our correspondent that the HRW report “underscores the deplorable nature of human rights in the Gambia and international human rights organizations are now seeing the true nature of it in the Gambia.”

Mr. Janneh and the CCG are planning a major forum addressing governance and democracy in the Gambia during the United Nations General Assembly Summit in New York City this October. 

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