The global demonstrations coincide with a national holiday called ‘Freedom Day’ that current Gambian president Yahya Jammeh created to commemorate the day he assumed power in 1994.
Even though ‘Freedom Day’ is around the corner, that didn’t stop Gambia’s government from charging former Gambia Press Union President Ndey Tapha Sosseh and four other activists this week on trumped up charges of treason.
To raise awareness of abuses like this in Gambia, Amnesty International is organizing demonstrations and solidarity actions with partners in cities across the world, from Lagos to Glasgow.
The human rights situation in the country has deteriorated since our last report on Gambia was published in 2008. Journalists and members of the opposition are frequently harassed and threatened, and some have been unlawfully killed.
Journalists, lawyers and activists have been frequently detained illegally when suspected of providing information to news agencies, or investigating issues the government finds sensitive such as Female Genital Mutilation.
Some of the detentions and imprisonments have a trivial basis. In March, parents and relatives of a political opposition leader Mai Fatty were detained briefly for displaying a poster bearing his picture. Last year, an opposition leader Femi Peters was jailed for using a loudspeaker. Human rights defender Edwin Nebolisa was jailed for inviting the daughter of the President to a human rights event.
In June of this year, staff and members of the newly elected executives of the Gambia Press union were repeatedly questioned by members of the security forces, and of course, this week we have the government charging activists with treason.
Amnesty International is encouraging people worldwide to join together on July 22, 2011 to call on the Gambian government to uphold its people’s basic rights and freedoms.