Amnesty: Demand Gambia Repeal Repressive Laws, Uphold Human Rights

 Gambia, laws restricting freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are still in force
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In Gambia, laws restricting freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are still in force despite the commitment from the authorities to uphold human rights.

Those laws contravene national and international human rights provisions. Take action now and demand to the Gambian National Assembly to repeal as soon as possible section 5 of the public order act and all restrictive criminal provisions.

Section 5 of the Public Order Act requiring permission from the police to protest remains in force and has been used to restrict public gatherings over the past five years. For example, in January 2020, the police responded with force when “Three Years Jotna”, a group demanding that President Adama Barrow resigns, allegedly deviated from their approved route while protesting. The authorities then banned the group and arrested four of its members.

In May 2021, the Attorney General finally withdrew criminal charges against them.

In June 2021, the Inspector General (IG) of police denied permission for a pro-Barrow group, “Gambia for 5 Years and Peace Building”, to protest against a decision of the electoral commission to allow the mayor of the capital Banjul to issue attestations to voters.

In addition, the current criminal code contains several clauses restricting freedom of expression.

For example, in January 2018 a lecturer at the University of Gambia was detained and charged under 59b of the Criminal Code before being released the next day after he gave an interview during which he claimed that long-term security will not be restored if the president does not win the trust of the Gambian army.

In January 2020, the police closed local radio stations King FM and Home Digital FM after they covered a protest that was violently repressed by the police. Police arrested and charged the stations’ owners and managers with broadcasting incendiary messages and inciting violence. Although the charges were eventually dropped, their broadcasting licenses were suspended for one month.

In June 2020, human rights defender Madi Jobarteh was arrested and charged with false information and broadcasting under section 181A of the Criminal Code after he stated during a Black Lives Matter protest he had organized that the government failed to investigate the killings of three Gambian citizens by police officers. The charges were dropped the following month.

Section 5 of the Public Order Act impermissibly restricts the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Sections 47, 48, 51, 52, 52A, 59, 60, and 181A are all clauses of the Criminal Code restricting freedom of expression. These laws contravene national and international human rights provisions.

As the country approaches the presidential elections, it’s urgent to uphold human rights in Gambia. Call on the Gambian National Assembly to repeal these laws as soon as possible.

Send an email to the Majority Leader Hon. Kebba K. Barrow, the Speaker Hon. Mariam Jack-Denton and the Minority Leader Hon. Samba Jallow to remind them that these laws represent a failure on the authorities’ commitment to uphold human rights.

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