Gambia election: Presidential contenders urged to sign rights charter

Amnesty International has called on all six contenders to The Gambia's December 4, 2021 presidential election to commit themselves to…

Amnesty International has called on all six contenders to The Gambia’s December 4, 2021 presidential election to commit themselves to a human rights charter submitted to them.Election campaign officially began on Tuesday with Adama Barrow, the current president seeking a second term. 

Five candidates, including former Vice President Ousainou Darboe, are facing Yahya Jammeh’s successor.

Amnesty International is asking the candidates to “publicly commit to improving the human rights situation in seven key areas, once they are elected.”

For the international NGO, this means “protecting the right to freedom of expression, protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, fighting impunity, ending sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination against women, promoting economic, social and cultural rights, adopting a law prohibiting torture and abolishing the death penalty.”

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Director for West and Central Africa, says “the repressive regime of former President Yaya Jammeh was marked by mass arbitrary arrests, widespread torture, extrajudicial killings and persecution of dissenting voices.”

Under Adama Barrow, the human rights organisation notes that the situation has improved significantly. 

However, it believes that “next month’s election is an opportunity for The Gambia to see its human rights record improving.”

This includes signing its manifesto “highlighting the need to guarantee and promote the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which remain under threat in the country”. 

For Amnesty International, “the laws that restrict freedoms must be revised.”

In its argument, it points to the Penal Code which, among other things, “(criminalizes) sedition in relation to the president and the administration of justice, imposes severe penalties including imprisonment, confiscation of publications and printing machines.

In addition, Amnesty International reports that “the Information and Communications Act, the Immunity Act 2001 and section 5 of the Public Order Act “are also problematic. 

AI hopes that the country’s next president will repeal or revise these laws and ensure that “legislation is in line with regional and international human rights treaties that the country has ratified.”

The Gambian leader will also have to ensure “accountability for human rights violations” and implement “all the recommendations of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) regarding prosecution and the fight against impunity.

In this sense, AI urges that members of Jammeh’s erstwhile regime who are accused of serious crimes, must be brought to justice and, if found guilty, suspended immediately from the security forces. 

The AI emphasizes “the need to protect women’s rights” by fighting female genital mutilations (FGM) and child marriage, among other things.