GENEVA (16 December 2016) – The increased military presence deployed across The Gambia since President Yayha Jammeh rejected the election result risks heightening the current climate of intimidation and harassment in the country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has warned.
“This is deeply worrying, given the record of human rights violations in The Gambia, including excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detention and deaths in custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees,” Zeid said.
“We remind the Gambian authorities that people should be able to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression. The security forces must exercise restraint in the use of force and uphold international human rights standards,” Zeid said. “All those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable,” he added.
President Jammeh, who has been in power for more than 22 years, initially accepted that Adama Barrow had won. However, on 9 December, Mr. Jammeh rejected the results published by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and called for fresh elections. On 13 December, his APRC party filed a petition challenging the results with the Supreme Court.
“There is currently no sitting Supreme Court in The Gambia and the way President Jammeh appointed and dismissed judges without following the constitutional provisions has undermined the independence and credibility of the judiciary,” Zeid noted.
“I urge the president and all political parties to respect the result of the elections, the democratic process and the rule of law,” the High Commissioner stressed.
The High Commissioner also called on Mr. Jammeh to respect the independent status of the IEC, whose premises were taken over by the army on Tuesday and officials ordered to leave. President Jammeh and his Government should avoid resorting to threats or acts of intimidation, including against Mr. Barrow and his supporters, and members of the IEC, Zeid stressed.
“All parties should conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful atmosphere during this crucial period and, in particular, avoid using inflammatory language. We urge all sides to reaffirm their commitment to democracy and to work to ensure that there is a peaceful handover of the presidency by 18 January in line with the freely expressed desire and will of the Gambian people,” the High Commissioner stated.