Friday, September 18, 2015

The Gambia is crying for help

The Gambia is the smallest country on the African continent with about 2 million inhabitants, but has one of the biggest and most persistent human rights problems anywhere in the world, and Gambians, the most abused humans on the planet.  It may have taken the international community twenty years to recognize and acknowledge the problem that the population endured under a tyrannical military-turn-civilian regime for over twenty-one years, but the persistent and intense human rights abuses in the Gambia are finally being investigated, first by Amnesty International and other reputable human rights organizations, culminating in the Human Rights Watch Report.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Human Rights Campaign have either written reports on the deteriorating conditions of the human rights environment in The Gambia or have lobbied the United States State Department and/or The White House for stringent sanctions against the Jammeh regime.
The Gambian dictator 

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report is, by far, the most damning of the reports on the Jammeh regime's abuse of human rights of Gambians.  HRW interviewed 17 persons who alleged torture and other degrading treatment at the hands of the state's security agents which, according to them, include the use of "severe beatings with wooden clubs, metal pipes, guns, cables, electric wires, hammers, fan belts, and a traditional whip made of dried animal skin (leymarr in Wolof, a native language); near-suffocation by tying a plastic bag over the head; pouring water over the victim; trampling with boots; electroshock of genitals; rape and other sexual violence; tying up with ropes; fake burial; and melting and melting of plastic bags to drip on the skin.  Medical treatment is routinely denied by the victims tormentors and "often denied contact with relatives until visible wounds had healed". according to the HRW report.

The cases documented by HRW dates as early as 1994 when Jammeh seized power unconstitutionally to as recently as January 2015 thus confirming what Gambian opponents of the regime and diaspora news outlets have been reporting for a very long time.

The use of torture and other forms of abuse by the Jammeh regime has been routine and pervasive throughout what has become a myriad of detention centers and torture chambers throughout the country.  Victims can easily go unaccounted for or "made to disappear" by moving them from one holding place to another.  Ebrima "Chief" Manneh, the Gambian journalist has gone missing after he was arrested in his newspaper offices and was moved from one police station to another.

Journalists are not the regime's only target, as the HRW report was able to demonstrate.  The victims of the regime are from all works of life - "opposition members, members of the security or intelligence services, civil servants, and others who spoke out on government human rights violations." Imams and other religious leaders who criticize the regime have increasingly become targets of torture and inhumane treatment.  Minors have not been spared either and neither have members of the LGBT community who have been physically and verbally threatened to "slit their throats" by none other than the Gambian dictator himself.  
Jammeh $ 3.5 million Mansion in Potomac, Maryland, USA

The European Union has been in the fore as it concerns development assistance with the suspension of disbursement of development assistance in certain areas, such as infrastructure projects that will not directly and immediately affect the poor and most vulnerable groups.  However, further sanctions are necessary to bring the regime to the realization that its current torture policy and other human rights abuses are unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated in the future.

A regime of sanctions must be applied immediately in light of the Human Rights Watch's Report that must include a travel ban of senior officials of the regime to include the Interior Minister, Director General of the National Intelligence Agency and his Deputy, Inspector General of Police and anyone positively identified to be among those carrying out the torture of Gambians and non-Gambians alike.
As proposed by the Robert F. Kennedy Center, an investigation into Jammeh, his immediate family and senior officials for the misuse of public funds, and this should include the investigation of Jammeh's $ 3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Maryland.