By Sanna Camara
The international community cannot sit and wait, and leave Gambians on their own fate. They have to make sure that they push for investigations to be done in Gambia, Article 19’s Fatou Jagne has told journalists in Dakar yesterday.
The rights ad free expression advocate said the rights group that gathered in the Senegalese capital yesterday are “quite concerned by the conditions of detentions, by the lack of information coming out from the government and from the Gambia as a country, but also by the silence of the international community on the human rights abuses” being perpetuated in The Gambia.
“Obviously, everyone condemned the coup: we do as human rights organisations… but we want the international community to be interested in what is happening in the Gambia more than just a statement on an unconstitutional means of taking power,” she told Gambia Beat on the sidelines of the press conference yesterday.
“Obviously, that is a setback,” she went on. “Nobody wants coup d’etat, that is a setback for democracy but also open space must be allowed to avoid those kind of situations. And we want to call attention to the danger of leaving a situation to perish like this.”
Mrs. Jagne-Senghore said the people need to have open space to speak out, and participate in development. “We have been hearing rumours in the past of coup d’ etats… how comes that in a small country, every now and then there is a coup?”
A shocking situation on the ground
She said that they have thirty days have gone past, and people have been arbitrarily detained incommunicado without anybody knowing their whereabouts, and so far there has not been any legal representations for them.
“Most of the people have no clue where their loved ones are, so we believe that this is quite wrong and it is against the constitution itself, and against all norms. And the most important thing is, there is information blackout from the government. They have not indicated what those people have done, why they have been arrested and what is going to happen to them; are they going organise fair trials…?” she indicated.
Mrs. Jagne further said they are “quite shocked” that authorities can arrest women and teenagers for acts that have been supposedly committed by the son or the father respectively. “I don’t think there is any criminal law which says that you can be held responsible for acts that have been committed by a family member, unless you have committed it yourself. I don’t think a 16-year-old boy has any penal responsibility for what could have been committed by the father,” she argued.
Since the coup attempt of last month, many Gambians have fled the country who, according to Mrs. Jagne, could serve national development: “why are you frustrating the whole country to leave and then you start again?”
She explained: “The elite has gone, and people are becoming vulnerable where they are within the country, and there are many of people who have left the country – these are ordinary Gambians who are not asking for anything but just to live in peace in their own country and you are denying them that possibility because somebody in their family is a target and you have to target the whole family.
“Also there have been information coming out of the Gambia that they have exhibited bodies of those who have been killed. That is inhuman and against international humanitarian law. You cannot exhibit bodies like that. It is another way of instilling fear, and we hope that those acts will not be committed in the coming weeks….”