In Annual Country Report, USA Alleges Its Friend, Gambia, Routinely Tortures, Disappears, Jails Citizens With Impunity

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THE GAMBIA 2014  HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Gambia is a multi-party democratic republic. In 2011 voters re-elected

President Alhaji Yahya Jammeh to a fourth term in a peaceful, orderly election;

however, international observers considered it neither free nor fair. President

Jammeh’s party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC),

continued to dominate the political landscape, winning an overwhelming majority

of National Assembly seats in the parliamentary elections in 2012 and in the local

government elections held in April 2013. Six of the seven opposition parties

boycotted or otherwise did not participate in both the national assembly and local

government elections to protest government intervention and intimidation of

opponents. Authorities at times failed to maintain effective control over the

security forces.

A failed coup on December 30 resulted in the arrest of individuals suspected of

participating in the coup as well as family members of alleged coup plotters.

Security forces reportedly killed three coup plotters during the coup attempt.

The most serious human rights problems in the country included torture, arrest,

detention, and sometimes enforced disappearance of citizens, and government

harassment and abuse of its critics. Government officials routinely used various

methods of intimidation to retain power.

Other reported human rights problems included poor prison conditions; denial of

due process; prolonged pretrial and incommunicado detention; restrictions on

privacy and freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; government interference in

the practice of religion; corruption; violence against women and girls, including

female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); forced child marriage; trafficking in

persons, including child prostitution; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual,

and transgender (LGBT) individuals; and child labor.

While the government took steps to prosecute or punish some individuals who

committed abuses, impunity and lack of sustained enforcement remained problems.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

  1. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

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There was one report the government or its agents may have committed an

arbitrary or unlawful killing.

On September 9, a 28-year-old man, Demba Cole, died after an altercation with

Corporal Lamin S. Jarju of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF). A GAF spokesman

stated the GAF’s military police unit and the Gambia Police Force were

investigating a homicide. Media reports suggested Cole sustained grievous bodily

harm from a fistfight with Corporal Jarju at the latter’s home. The newspaper

Foroyaa quoted family members saying security officers who took the corpse to

the hospital in Banjul refused to give the body or the postmortem report to the

family. Under police escort the corpse was buried at Kanifing South cemetery.

Authorities did not formally charge Jarju with any offense, but on September 23,

GAF published a “wanted” notice for the officer due to “suspected homicide.”

Disappearance

There were numerous reports of politically motivated disappearances during the

year. A number of persons were reported missing after being arrested by the

National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

In June 2013 two U.S. citizens, Alhagie Ceesay and Ebrima Jobe, disappeared after

last being seen in the country. In October the attorney general stated the

government had launched an investigation into the disappearance. There was no

reported progress in locating the individuals.

  1. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or

Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, there were reports

security forces tortured, beat, and mistreated persons in custody.

In November, UN special rapporteurs investigating reports of torture and

extrajudicial execution were prevented from carrying out their investigation. The

team’s preliminary findings, however, indicated the NIA consistently practiced

torture, and there were a few reports police also used torture on individuals

suspected of common crimes. The UN findings indicated the NIA tortured

detainees for days or even weeks; methods included severe beatings, electric

shock, asphyxiation, and burning.

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For example, on September 17, lawyer Edward Singhateh, representing three

individuals on trial on drug-related charges at the Banjul Magistrate’s Court, said

his clients were “mercilessly beaten” while in detention before they were taken to

the State Guard clinic for treatment. The accused persons–Adama Conateh, Paul

Gomes, and Yusupha Jatta–had been standing trial since November 2013 after

they were reportedly found in possession of 2.9 grams of cocaine. They denied the

charges. Singhateh stated, “Narcotics officers kept the accused persons in

detention for more than two weeks and even denied them bail because they were

trying to hide the injuries on their bodies and the ill health of the first accused,

Adama Conateh.” In June the lawyer reported to the court his clients were

“severely brutalized” while their cautionary and voluntary statements were being

obtained. The government did not provide a response. The accused persons were

granted bail, and the trial continued at year’s end.

In December 2013 the deputy editor in chief of the progovernment Daily Observer

newspaper, Alagie Jobe, who was on trial on several charges including “making an

act with seditious intention” and “seditious publication,” claimed he was severely

tortured during his interrogation by NIA officers in Banjul. He declared, “I was

tortured all night in a dark room,” with some officers extinguishing their cigarettes

on his body. The same routine of punishment continued the next day, Jobe

asserted, and the commanding officer, shocked to see the nature of the wounds,

ordered his transfer to the hospital. Jobe and his codefendant Mbaye Bittaye were

acquitted and discharged on September 3.

The Indemnity Act, which allows the president to grant amnesty to any person,

including security force members, accused of misconduct during unauthorized

gatherings, continued to deter victims from seeking redress for torture committed

during the country’s 1994-96 military rule. The army requires victims to file

formal complaints with the courts regarding alleged torture that occurred at other

times. During the year there were no known prosecutions in civil or military courts

of security force members accused of mistreating individuals.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening.

Physical Conditions: Prison conditions were poor and cells were overcrowded,

damp, and poorly ventilated. Inmates complained of poor sanitation and food and

occasionally slept on the floor. Officials allowed detainees to receive food from

the outside prior to conviction, but not afterwards. Medical facilities in prisons

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were poor, and authorities sent sick inmates to the Edward Francis Small Teaching

Hospital in Banjul or nearby health centers for examination and treatment. Former

inmates and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported the

prisoner mortality rate was high. Reports indicated prisoners died of neglect or

lack of access to health care. The water supply was adequate, but sanitation and

lighting in some cells were poor. During the summer temperatures were extremely

high, and there were no ceiling fans or other measures to reduce heat. Authorities

at the NIA held most detainees in solitary confinement and often in dark and ratand

insect-infested rooms.

In November Mile 2 Prison, which had an intended capacity of 450 inmates, held

610 prisoners and detainees, including 28 women and juveniles, according to the

director of Prison Services. Jeshwang Prison, with a planned capacity of 150

inmates, held 216 prisoners, including 15 juveniles. Janjangbureh Prison, with an

intended capacity of 50, held 88 prisoners.

In August 2013 President Jammeh said he was “shocked” there were numerous

cases of prisoners “languishing” in the remand wing of Mile 2 Prison. He

confirmed some of the prisoners had been there for years with “only one court

appearance.” The president urged the judiciary to do more to speed along cases to

ensure respect for each prisoner’s right to trial.

Administration: Officials generally allowed prisoners access to visitors, although

most political prisoners and inmates on the remand wing were denied access to

lawyers and family members. Authorities permitted prisoners religious

observance. Prisoners and detainees could transmit complaints to judicial

authorities through their lawyer, if they could afford one, or relatives.

Authorities sometimes investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. A

Prisons Visiting Committee, which included representatives of several government

agencies, is empowered to monitor prison conditions. Ousman Sonko, the minister

of interior, claimed the committee visited the central prison weekly and submitted

reports on substandard conditions. The claims of weekly committee visits could

not be verified.

The Office of the Ombudsman can investigate all complaints brought before it,

including those concerning bail conditions, pretrial detention, and confinement of

juvenile offenders. It cannot negotiate alternatives to detention for detainees or

convicts. The office did not publish findings from any investigations it conducted

during the year.

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Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit the International

Committee of the Red Cross or the media access to monitor prison conditions

during the year. Only local NGOs or diplomatic missions that provided assistance

to prisoners were allowed to hand over gifts, but authorities did not allow them to

monitor conditions.

The government invited UN special rapporteurs investigating reports of torture and

extrajudicial execution to visit. The government, however, canceled the invitation

without explanation in August and rescheduled it for November. After the UN

special rapporteur team arrived, the government denied it access to the security

wing of Mile 2 Prison, violating the agreed terms of reference. Consequently, the

rapporteurs could not complete the full mandate of the mission.

  1. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there

were instances of police and other security forces arbitrarily arresting and detaining

citizens.

For example, a former protocol officer at State House, Momodou Sowe, who was

arrested in 2012 when he reported for work, was still detained at Mile 2 prison.

Foroyaa reported he was being held at the security wing of the prison, and family

members had not had access to him since his detention. In August an attorney

filed suit on his behalf against the state for wrongful termination, although Sowe

did not appear before the court personally during the trial.

On February 25, former minister of foreign affairs Mambury Njie was arrested and

placed under custody at Brusubi Police Station shortly after being granted bail by

the Magistrate’s Court in Banjul. He was released on March 12 after 13 days in

detention, rearrested on April 15, and held for 42 days before his trial commenced

for alleged “economic crimes, abuse of office, and neglect of official duties.” The

charges stated Njie, while serving as permanent secretary in the Office of the

President in 2001, failed to advise the Office of the President appropriately that he

planned to award a license to mining company Carnegie Minerals. He denied the

charge. Between October 2012 and February 2014, Njie spent varying periods in

detention, each surpassing the 72-hour legal limit. In November the local press

reported the NIA had held him in detention without charge for more than 49 days.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

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The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) are responsible for external defense and report

to the minister of defense, a position held by the president. The police, under the

Ministry of Interior, are responsible for public security. The NIA, which reports

directly to the president, is responsible for protecting state security, collecting

intelligence, and conducting covert investigations. The NIA is not authorized to

investigate police abuses but often assumed police functions such as detaining and

questioning criminal suspects.

Security force members frequently were corrupt and ineffective. Impunity was a

problem, and police sometimes defied court orders.

The newly restructured police prosecution and legal affairs unit has two officers

assigned to human rights issues, but they received no complaints of abuses

committed by police officers during the year. Observers believed citizens avoided

reporting abuses due to fear of reprisal, lack of substantive redress, and a general

mistrust of police. The Office of the Ombudsman appeared to handle most

complaints against police officers (see section 5).

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires authorities to obtain a warrant before arresting a person, but

police often arrested individuals without a warrant. Periods of detention generally

ranged from a few to 72 hours, the legal limit after which detainees must be

charged or released; however, there were numerous instances of detentions

exceeding the 72-hour limit. Authorities generally did not inform detainees

promptly of charges against them. There was a functioning bail system; however,

prosecutors customarily opposed applications for bail for detainees charged with

misdemeanors and ordered lengthy adjournments to allow additional time to

prepare their cases. Judges and magistrates sometimes set bail bonds at

unreasonably high amounts. The courts occasionally released accused offenders

on bail only to have police or other law enforcement personnel re-arrest them as

they were leaving the court, sometimes to provide the prosecution more time to

prepare cases.

On May 12, NIA officers arrested Lieutenant Colonel Solo Bojang, former

manager of Kanilai Family Farms in Kanilai, shortly after the Brikama

Magistrate’s Court acquitted him on charges of “abuse of office, false information,

conspiracy, and theft.” A family source told Foroyaa in early September that

Bojang was being held at the NIA detention center in Tanji, Kombo South. He

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remained in detention at year’s end. Bojang had earlier paid a fine of 50,000 dalasi

($1,160) after conviction on a charge of abuse of office.

On September 17, officers of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia

(DLEAG)–formerly the National Drug Enforcement Agency–seized Khalifa

Bojang after he was acquitted and discharged by a magistrate in Banjul. Bojang

was accused of possession of prohibited drugs for the purpose of trafficking, but

the magistrate said the prosecution had failed to prove its case. When the

magistrate refused a request by prosecutors to remand Bojang in custody pending

outcome of his appeal, DLEAG officers detained him as he stepped out of the

courtroom to talk to his lawyer. Bojang remained in detention at year’s end.

Officials did not allow detainees prompt access to a lawyer or family members,

although convicted prisoners generally were permitted to meet privately with an

attorney. The judiciary provided indigent persons accused of murder or

manslaughter with lawyers at public expense.

Military decrees enacted prior to the adoption of the constitution give the NIA and

the interior minister broad powers to detain individuals indefinitely without charge

“in the interest of national security.” These detention decrees were inconsistent

with the constitution but have not been legally challenged. The government

claimed it no longer enforced the decrees, but such detentions continued to occur.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists and other citizens

during the year (see sections 1.e., 2.a., and 5).

On July 1, Minister of Higher Education Momodou Sabally was dismissed and

arrested after serving in that position for only a week. Sabally previously served as

secretary general at the Office of the President and minister for presidential affairs.

He was held for 41 days without charge at NIA headquarters, and family members

complained they had no access to him. On August 11, police charged him with

“abuse of office” and “economic crimes.” Prosecutors said Sabally, while serving

as secretary general, unduly influenced the Social Security and Housing Finance

Corporation to finance a program entitled “Youth Career Development Program”

at a cost of 402,500 dalasi ($9,340) without recourse to due process. His bail

application was refused and he was remanded in custody. The government did not

provide a reason for his unlawful detention prior to formal charges. In November,

nearly five months after his initial detention, the High Court granted Sabally bail in

the amount of 1.5 million dalasi ($34,800).

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In September 2013 NIA officers arrested journalist and television presenter Fatou

Camara, who had previously been dismissed from her position as director of press

and public relations in the Office of the President. The authorities held her until

September 18 and re-arrested her several hours later. The NIA held Camara for 22

days before bringing her to court and charging her with “spreading false news and

publication of false news with intent to tarnish the image of the president.”

Prosecutors accused her of providing information to the editor of Freedom Online

news site. She was granted bail and later fled the country.

A failed coup on December 30 resulted in the arrest of individuals suspected of

participating in the coup as well as family members of alleged coup plotters.

Security forces reportedly killed three coup plotters during the coup attempt.

Pretrial Detention: Backlogs and inefficiency in the justice system resulted in

lengthy pretrial detention. Approximately 30 percent of inmates in the prison

system were in pretrial detention, and some had been incarcerated for several years

awaiting trial.

Amnesty: Unlike in 2013, there was no amnesty during the year.

  1. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the courts lacked

independence and were inefficient and corrupt. Amnesty International noted the

president’s power to remove a judge, nominally in consultation with the Judicial

Service Commission, impeded judicial independence. Judges presiding over

“sensitive” cases who made decisions not considered favorable to the government

risked being fired.

 

There was little stability in senior judiciary positions; for example, the government

removed three Supreme Court chief justices during the year. In February the

government removed Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang without providing a reason;

while it filed no formal charges, the government reported it was searching for her.

President Jammeh accused a “foreign government” of interfering with Agyemang’s

rulings and said it was curious she disappeared from the country.

Frequent delays and missing or unavailable witnesses, judges, and lawyers often

impeded trials. Many cases also were delayed because of adjournments to allow

police or the NIA time to continue their investigations.

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To alleviate the backlog, the government continued to recruit judges and

magistrates from Commonwealth countries with similar legal systems. Foreign

magistrates and judges, who often presided over sensitive cases, were particularly

subject to executive pressure.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the presumption of innocence, a fair and public trial without

undue delay, and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants,

however, generally did not enjoy the right to be informed promptly and in detail of

the charges against them. By law no one is compelled to testify or confess guilt.

Trials generally were open to the public, unless closed-court sessions were

necessary to protect the identity of a witness. Juries were not used. Defendants

can consult an attorney and have the right to confront witnesses and challenge

evidence against them, present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and

appeal judgment to a higher court. The law extends these rights to all citizens, and

no persons were denied these rights during the year; however, authorities rarely

informed detainees of their rights or the reasons for their arrest or detention,

according to Amnesty International.

Military tribunals cannot try civilians. Court-martial proceedings are presided over

by a judge advocate assisted by a panel of senior military officers. On January 27,

a disciplinary court-martial arranged by the GAF convicted six soldiers of

indiscipline while serving on peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Sudan, and

sentenced them to varying terms of imprisonment. The soldiers–Major Musa

Gibba, Lieutenant Ebrima J. B. Kujabi, Warrant Officer 1 Suwaibu Ceesay,

Warrant Officer 2 Karamo Drammeh, Corporal Lamin Wagged, and Corporal

Muhammed Sowe–were found guilty of various offenses including “failure to

perform military duties, disobedience of lawful command, scandalous conduct, and

unauthorized use of vehicles.” They received prison sentences ranging from 12 to

27 months.

The judicial system also recognizes customary law and sharia (Islamic law).

Customary law covers marriage and divorce for non-Muslims, inheritance, land

tenure, tribal and clan leadership, and other traditional and social relations. District

chiefs preside over local tribunals that administer customary law at the district

level. Customary law recognizes the rights of all citizens regardless of age,

gender, and religion; however, it requires women to show respect for their

husbands, and children for their parents.

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Sharia applies in domestic matters, including Muslim marriage, divorce, and

inheritance. Qadi (Islamic) courts discriminated against women. Qadi courts and

district tribunals do not offer standard legal representation to the parties in a case,

since lawyers were not trained in Islamic or customary law.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

During the year there were credible reports the government held civilians based on

their political views or associations, and some were held incommunicado for

prolonged periods. International and domestic NGOs estimated there were nearly

30 reported political prisoners in detention at year’s end. Most were former

military personnel accused of involvement in plots to overthrow the government.

Authorities held these prisoners in the security wing of Mile 2 Central Prison and

on occasion allowed them visits from family members. The government did not

allow international human rights organizations regular access to these detainees.

In 2012 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals of seven of eight men convicted

of plotting to overthrow the government in 2009 and sentenced to death in 2010.

The seven were former GAF chief of defense staff general Lang Tombong Tamba,

former GAF director of operations and training brigadier general Omar Bun Mbye,

commander of the army unit in the president’s home village lieutenant colonel

Kawsu Camara, head of GAF intelligence major Momodou Lamin Bo Badjie,

former deputy inspector general of police Momodou Gaye, former diplomat Ngorr

Secka, and real estate dealer Abdoulie Joof. The eighth man, businessman Yusuf

Ezziden, appealed separately but did not appear in court; authorities reportedly

allowed him to leave the country. In November the Supreme Court unanimously

agreed to commute the death sentences of the prisoners. Justice Semega-Janneh

declared, “The law has categorically stated that no one should be sentenced to

death by any court of law without being prescribed by the law if no violence or

death has occurred.”

In April 2013 the Special Criminal Court convicted and sentenced Alieu Lowe to

20 years’ imprisonment for “concealment of treason and perjury.” The court

acquitted and discharged his codefendant, Abdoulie Njie, regarding the same

charges. The two were arrested following disclosure of the abortive 2006 coup

plot. They were detained for five and one-half years before being formally

charged. Lowe was a nephew of fugitive coup leader Ndure Cham. The trial of a

third detainee, Hamadi Sowe, also charged with concealment of treason relating to

the 2006 coup plot, continued at year’s end.

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Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The high court has jurisdiction to hear cases concerning civil and human rights

violations, although it may decline to exercise its powers if it is satisfied other

adequate means of redress are available. The Indemnity Act continued to prevent

victims from seeking redress in some cases.

Regional Human Rights Court Decisions

Citizens can appeal decisions to the Nigeria-based regional court of the Economic

Community of West African States (ECOWAS). For example, the family of

assassinated journalist and newspaper publisher Deyda Hydara took the

government to the ECOWAS court for failure to investigate his killing properly.

On June 10, the court ruled the government failed to conduct a meaningful

investigation into the 2006 death of Hydara, cofounder and publisher of The Point

newspaper. Hydara, a regular critic of President Jammeh and his government, was

shot and killed by unidentified assailants as he drove home from his office one

night. A panel of three judges declared the NIA, which was tasked to investigate

Hydara’s death, did not carry out a proper investigation and cited its failure to

carry out ballistic tests on the bullets and weapons recovered from suspects. The

court stated the NIA was “not an impartial body to conduct the investigation” but

that there was no evidence linking the government to the killing. The court

nevertheless awarded approximately 2.15 million dalasi ($50,000) to Hydara’s

family as compensation for the government’s failure to investigate the case

effectively and 435,000 dalasi ($10,000) for legal costs.

  1. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

 

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not respect

these prohibitions. The government generally enforced Decree 45, which applies

constitutional safeguards against arbitrary searches and the seizure of property

without due process. Observers believed the government monitored citizens

engaged in activities that it deemed objectionable.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  1. Freedom of Speech and Press

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The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, the

government restricted these rights. According to a statement issued in 2011 by the

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, “the environment for

independent and opposition media remained hostile, with numerous obstacles to

freedom of expression, including administrative hurdles, arbitrary arrest and

detention, intimidation and judicial harassment against journalists, and the closure

of media outlets, leading to self-censorship.”

 

Freedom of Speech: Individuals who publicly or privately criticized the

government or the president risked government reprisal. For example, police

arrested Mass Kah, a messenger of an opposition newspaper, on charges of

sedition in November 2013 and held him beyond the 72-hour detention limit.

According to the court, the charge was based on the messenger stating, “Why can’t

you paste the photo of the president on the sky?” Mass Kah denied the allegation.

In September the presiding magistrate said the statement could “not bring hatred,

disaffection, and disrespect to the person of the president.” The court acquitted

and discharged Mass Kah.

In December 2013 police arrested and detained an activist of the opposition United

Democratic Party (UDP), Lansana Jobarteh, for eight days. Police accused

Jobarteh of using an iPod and Skype to facilitate the foreign broadcast of two

opposition political rallies. On July 10, a magistrate in Bundung convicted him on

charges of “broadcasting without a license” and fined him 50,000 dalasi ($1,160),

or in default thereof to serve one year in prison. Jobarteh paid the fine.

Press Freedoms: Laws that impose excessive bonds on media institutions also

require newspapers to reregister annually and mandate harsh punishment for the

publication of so-called false information or undermining constitutional

protections. According to Freedom House, these provisions gave authorities great

power to silence dissent.

In 2011 President Jammeh warned independent journalists he would “not

compromise or sacrifice the peace, security, stability, dignity, and the well-being of

Gambians for the sake of freedom of expression.” Accusing some journalists of

being the “mouthpiece of opposition parties,” he vowed to prosecute any journalist

who offended him.

 

On January 13, plainclothes police officers arrested two journalists–Musa Sheriff,

editor and publisher of The Voice newspaper, and freelance journalist Sainey M. K.

Marenah–following publication of a story in The Voice with the headline “19

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green youths defect to UDP” in December 2013. The “Green Youths” are part of

the ruling APRC party, and the newspaper article reported 19 of them had joined

the opposition UDP. Police freed the journalists on bail on January 16; they

appeared in court on February 13 and were charged with “conspiracy to cause a

misdemeanor and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to

the public.” They denied the charges, and a court acquitted them on November 10.

The government published The Gambia Now newspaper, formerly called The

Gambia Info. The privately owned Daily Observer favored the government in its

coverage. There were five other independent newspapers, including one published

by an opposition political party, which remained highly critical of the government.

One independent biweekly magazine covered political and economic issues. As a

“New Year’s gift to the nation,” President Jammeh lifted a previous ban on The

Standard newspaper and Teranga FM, which had been banned since August and

September 2012, respectively. One newspaper, The Daily News, remained banned

since 2012.

The government-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) and nine

private radio stations broadcast throughout the country. The GRTS gave limited

coverage to political opposition activities. GRTS television, foreign cable, and

satellite television channels that broadcast independent news coverage were

available in many parts of the country, and the government allowed unrestricted

access to such networks.

Violence and Harassment: Media restrictions tightened during the year, and the

government continued to harass and detain journalists. Numerous journalists

remained in self-imposed exile due to government threats and harassment.

The government routinely denied journalists from news outlets perceived to be

critical of the government access to public information and excluded them from

covering official events at certain venues. For example, Sana Camara, a journalist

employed by The Standard, was detained by police for “false publication” on June

  1. His arrest was in connection with an article published that day, entitled “Police

‘admit’ Problems with Human Trafficking,” in which he referred to an interview

with the public relations officer of the Gambia Police Force. Camara reported to

the police headquarters in Banjul more than 10 times after his initial detainment; he

was told he had to report due to the absence of the inspector general of police.

Police, however, never formally charged Sana Camara or explained why he had to

continue to report to police headquarters after the inspector general returned in

early July.

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Censorship or Content Restrictions: Private media outlets generally practiced selfcensorship

due to fear of reprisal by the government, and many refrained from

publishing content deemed contrary to the principles of Islam or offensive to other

religions and sects. Nevertheless, opposition views regularly appeared in the

independent press, and there was frequent criticism of the government in the

English-language private press.

The 2013 Information and Communication (Amendment) Act created several new

offenses for online speech that are punishable by a 15-year prison term and/or a

fine of three million dalasi ($69,600). The act criminalizes spreading false news

about the government or public officials, caricatures or making derogatory

statements regarding public officials, and inciting dissatisfaction with or instigating

violence against the government.

Libel Laws/National Security: The NIA was involved in the arbitrary closure of

media outlets and the extrajudicial detention of journalists; however, there were no

reports of torture of journalists during the year.

Internet Freedom

There were few government restrictions on access to the internet or credible

reports that the government monitored private online communications without

judicial oversight. Internet users, however, reported they could not access the

websites of foreign online news blogs such as Freedom Online and occasionally

other domestic dissident blogs.

In addition, from March to July, the gateway provider blocked voice over internet

protocol (VOIP) such as Skype and Viber. Internet Without Borders argued

blockage of VOIP services in the country represented a violation of International

Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards. The permanent secretary at the

Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Lamin Camara,

previously denied the services were blocked. In July the services were restored

without public comment from the government.

The ITU reported 10.9 percent of individuals in the country used the internet in

2011.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

In November Sait Matty Jaw and two foreign nationals, Seth Yaw Kandeh from

Ghana and Olufemi Erenli Titus from Nigeria, were arrested at the Brikama

campus of the University of The Gambia. The NIA took them into custody. Matty

Jaw was held for eight days without charge and then released, only to be rearrested

in December. The two foreign nationals remained in NIA custody. The

three men were charged on December 10 with disobedience of statutory duty,

conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, and failing to register a business. These

charges were brought after Kandeh and Titus spent more than one month in

detention without charge. Observers speculated Jaw’s research projects and

advocacy surrounding issues of youth and gender equality attracted the scrutiny of

the government, thus prompting his arrest. The court set bail at five million dalasi

($116,000), which was relatively high compared with typical bail amounts. On

December 23, the Magistrate’s Court convicted Kandeh and Titus after they

changed their pleas to guilty, and they were each fined 50,000 dalasi ($1,160) in

lieu of one year in prison. Sait Matty Jaw maintained his innocence, and the court

scheduled his case for January 15, 2015.

In April a dispute between the government and the Gambia National Olympic

Committee (GNOC) resulted in GNOC staff being barred from entering their own

headquarters. Despite a ruling from the International Olympics Committee (IOC)

in September that the GNOC did not commit an offense and should be allowed to

enter its own office, authorities maintained the prohibition.

  1. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, police

systematically refused requests for permission to hold demonstrations, including

peaceful ones, and occasionally refused to issue permits to opposition parties

wishing to hold political rallies.

For example, on March 13, the leader of the opposition National Reconciliation

Party (NRP), Hamat Bah, said the authorities had refused to allow his party to

conduct a campaign tour of the Upper River Region (URR) in preparation for its

congress. Under the Public Order Act, political parties planning to hold public

meetings must apply for a permit allowing them to use a public address system and

must provide details of place, date, and time of each rally. On May 28, Bah said

the police had again rejected an NRP application for use of a loudspeaker during a

tour of the URR.

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On August 31, the leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP),

Ousainou Darboe, said police denied the request for a permit to use a public

address system for a rally to celebrate the party’s 18th anniversary on August 23.

An earlier request for a rally on August 9 was approved at the last minute, albeit

with a mandated change of venue, when the party had no time left to inform its

supporters. On September 29, however, the UDP held its 18th anniversary rally

with a legal permit.

Freedom of Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government

generally respected this right in practice.

  1. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report

at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

  1. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of

Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country,

foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally

respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for

Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations to assist internally

displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of

concern. The UNHCR coordinated government efforts with the International

Organization for Migration, the Gambia Red Cross Society, and other agencies to

provide this protection and assistance.

Foreign Travel: The government imposed restrictions on foreign travel for many

persons released from detention, often because their travel documents were

confiscated temporarily at the time of their arrest or soon afterwards. As a rule the

government required all its employees to obtain permission from the Office of the

President before traveling abroad. On October 9, President Jammeh signed an

amendment to the criminal code that criminalizes the act of absconding while

performing government duties abroad. According to the new law, “a person who

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

leaves The Gambia under a government-sponsored program or on a mission as a

representative of The Gambia and refuses to return home on completion of his or

her program or mission commits an offence.” The person is liable on conviction to

a fine of 500,000 dalasi ($11,600) and imprisonment for five years.

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of refugee status under the

Refugee Act of 2008. The Gambia Commission for Refugees worked in close

cooperation with the UNHCR on the protection of refugees.

 

The UNHCR reported 11,427 refugees in the country, of whom 10,847 were

Senegalese who fled the Casamance conflict in Senegal. The UNHCR provided

assistance with basic needs and services and implemented livelihood programs.

During the year the number of refugees from Cote d’Ivoire decreased from 299 to

  1. The country also hosted smaller numbers of refugees from Sierra Leone,

Liberia, Togo, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,

Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their

Government

The constitution and law provide the ability of citizens to change their government

in free and fair elections; however, citizens were unable to exercise this right fully

in the 2011 presidential election due to government intimidation of voters and

ruling party control of the media. The country, however, held generally peaceful

National Assembly elections in March 2012 and local government elections in

April 2013. The country maintains an Independent Election Commission, but the

members are appointed by the president in consultation with the Judicial Service

Commission and the Public Service Commission. The current members of the

commission had all exceeded their terms in office.

A failed coup on December 30 resulted in the arrest of individuals suspected of

participating in the coup as well as family members of alleged coup plotters.

Security forces reportedly killed three coup plotters during the coup attempt.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2012 voters elected members of the National Assembly. Six

of the seven opposition parties boycotted the poll after the Independent Electoral

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Commission refused to accept the demands they had submitted, including for a

postponement of the election. President Jammeh’s party, the APRC, won 43 seats,

the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) one seat, and independent

candidates four seats.

During local elections in April 2013, independent candidates won 10 of the 45

elections in which they competed. The ruling APRC party and the NRP were the

only parties that participated. Incumbent Mayor Samba Faal (APRC) lost to

independent candidate Abdoulie Bah by a wide margin. In April 2013 the APRC

expelled Bah from the party, citing “manners incompatible with the Party’s code of

conduct.” Bah then decided to run as an independent candidate and focused on the

poor state of roads in Banjul. In March, Bah and two other independent candidates

who had left the APRC earlier were welcomed back to the party.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The APRC held 43 of 48 elected seats

in the National Assembly and continued to maintain tight control over the political

landscape. APRC membership conferred advantages, such as expediting

government transactions, facilitating access to certain documents, and securing

employment contracts.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were four women in the 53-seat

National Assembly; three were elected, and the president nominated one. At

year’s end there were two women in the 19-member cabinet, including the vice

president. Of 1,873 village heads, five were women.

No statistics were available on the percentage of minority members in the

legislature or the cabinet. Notably, President Jammeh and many members of his

administration were from the minority Jola ethnic group.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

While the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the

government did not implement the law effectively. The World Bank’s most recent

Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem.

The president spoke against corruption on numerous occasions during the year.

Corruption: There were several prosecutions for corruption of senior police,

military, and civilian officials during the year. For example, on January 9, the

Special Criminal Court in Banjul convicted and sentenced former chief justice

Joseph Wowo to two years in prison and former justice minister Lamin Jobarteh to

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

one year in prison. Jobarteh was already serving a prison term on a separate

conviction. Wowo and Jobarteh were charged with several offenses, including

soliciting a bribe from a Dutch national who had a case pending in the courts.

In November 2013 police arrested former director general Buba Sanyang on

charges of abuse of office. On October 28, Sanyang allegedly abused the authority

of his office as director general by issuing an entry clearance to Ali Chahin, a

Syrian national, and Hussein Abs, a Lebanese national, without following the

appropriate immigration procedures. His trial continued at year’s end.

In June 2013 NIA officers arrested former secretary general and minister of

presidential affairs Njogu Bah and held him without charge for one month before

bringing him to court on July 15. Bah was sentenced to a two-year jail term on

charges of conspiracy and abuse of office, together with former attorney general

Lamin Jobarherh and former solicitor general Pa Harry Jammeh. Bah was facing

new charges of interfering with the posting of Jainaba Jobarteh to the country’s

permanent mission at the United Nations in New York. The trial was underway at

year’s end.

On March 6, police arrested an officer of the DLEAG, Lamin Karbou, on charges

of “corruption, impersonation, and a false pretense.” Karbou was alleged to have

solicited and obtained 15,000 dalasi ($350) with intent to compromise the

investigation into a drug deal involving Kawsu Ceesay. He denied the charges,

and his trial was in progress at year’s end.

On November 25, former magistrate Saikou Fatty was arraigned before the Banjul

Magistrates’ Court on charges of official corruption. Fatty allegedly solicited the

sum of 20,000 dalasi ($460) and a gold wristwatch from a defendant in a matter

before his court, under the pretext of settling the matter. He denied the charges,

and his trial continued at year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials, both appointed and elected, are subject to

financial disclosure laws, but the government seldom enforced these laws. No

particular agency is mandated to monitor and verify disclosures, but the president

may appoint judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate any category of public

officials or private sector operators. The proceedings of such commissions were

held in public.

Public Access to Information: The constitution and law do not provide for public

access to government information. By law civil servants are not allowed to

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divulge information about their departments or speak to the press without prior

clearance from their department heads.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and

Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated

despite government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on

human rights cases. Government officials seldom were cooperative or responsive

to their views. According to the 2011 annual report of the Observatory for the

Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the legal and institutional environment in

the country continued to limit NGOs and human rights monitoring activities. The

NGO Decree of 1996 imposes a cumbersome registration process, allows the

government to reject valid NGO registration, and requires annual submissions of

budgets and work programs. The 2010 decision to place supervision of NGO

activities under the Office of the President resulted in increased restrictions.

Human rights organizations censored themselves and focused on nonsensitive

problems. Several groups expressed concern over detainees held incommunicado,

but the government did not respond.

The government harassed, arrested, and detained human rights workers.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government allowed visits

during the year by the United Nations and other international governmental

organizations, such as ECOWAS and the Commonwealth Secretariat; however, the

government offered no public response to reports issued after the visits.

During the UN Universal Periodic Review process in 2010, the government

accepted a recommendation to welcome a visit by the special rapporteur on torture

and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and other special

procedures. In November the UN special rapporteur on torture and on summary,

extrajudicial, and arbitrary executions visited the country at the government’s

invitation. Even though the government had agreed to the standard terms of

reference for the special rapporteur’s visit, it denied unfettered access to the first

prison visited by the rapporteur, who then suspended that aspect of the visit. The

special rapporteur’s preliminary report noted the “NIA tortured routinely and as a

matter of course” and “acted with impunity,” while the 2012 execution of nine

death row prisoners was arbitrary and violated international law. The report also

recommended a judicial inquiry into allegations of extrajudicial killings carried out

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

by paramilitary groups. Following the visit the country abruptly postponed its

article 8 discussions with the EU.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The governmental Office of the Ombudsman

operated a National Human Rights Unit (NHRU) to promote and protect human

rights and support vulnerable groups. In August 2013 the president dismissed the

ombudsman, Alhaji Sowe, and fired the office’s accountant without providing a

reason. Sowe was later acquitted by the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court in September

  1. Both the ombudsman and the second deputy ombudsman positions

remained vacant. During the year the unit addressed complaints regarding

unlawful dismissal, termination of employment, unfair treatment, and illegal arrest

and detention. According to its 2013 report, presented to the National Assembly,

the Ombudsman’ s Office received 87 complaints, most of which involved the

prison service and the police force. Most of the cases were resolved in favor of

complainants.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability,

language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these

prohibitions. Nevertheless, discrimination against women remained a problem.

The constitution and law do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation

or gender identity.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The penalty for rape is life imprisonment; however,

rape, including spousal rape, was a widespread problem. The maximum penalty

for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment. Authorities prosecuted at least

six rape cases reported to police during the year; most prosecutions resulted in

conviction. The law against spousal rape was difficult to enforce effectively, as

many did not consider spousal rape a crime and failed to report it. Police generally

considered reports of spousal rape to be domestic issues outside of their

jurisdiction.

The law prohibits any form of violence against women, but there are no specific

penalties. Domestic violence was underreported due to social stigma, and most

cases were settled through family mediation. No statistics were available for

abusers prosecuted or convicted. The government developed a national plan of

action on gender-based violence for 2013-17, with the goal of reducing the

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

percentage of women who experience gender-based violence from 75.5 percent to

30 percent. A National Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence was

established in 2012 to coordinate interventions.

Between January and October, officials at the Department of Social Welfare

recorded more than 375 cases of domestic violence, which included paternity and

custody cases in addition to cases of violence against children and women.

GAMCOTRAP, one of the leading women’s rights NGOs in the country, included

gender-based violence in its training modules for combating FGM/C. Another

group, the Female Lawyers’ Association of The Gambia, educated women on their

rights and represented them, often without charge, in domestic violence cases.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C,

and the practice remained widespread (see section 6, Children).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for a oneyear

mandatory prison sentence for offenders. Although sexual harassment was

considered a common problem, few cases were reported to the police.

Reproductive Rights: The government did not interfere with the basic right of

couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and

timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from

discrimination, coercion, and violence. Couples and individuals had access to

contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential obstetric

and postpartum care. The maternal mortality rate during the year was 378 per

100,000 live births.

During the year the national reproductive and child health unit of the Department

of Health and Social Welfare continued to implement a reproductive health

campaign launched in 2007. The campaign, funded by the World Health

Organization, sought to encourage men to become involved with sexual and

reproductive health issues. All maternal health care services were provided free of

charge in government-run hospitals.

Discrimination: The law provides equal rights to men and women and prohibits

discrimination on grounds of gender; however, women experienced a wide range

of discrimination in matrimonial rights, property ownership, and inheritance rights.

Employment in the formal sector was open to women at the same salary rates as

men, and no statutory discrimination existed in other kinds of employment (see

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

section 7.d.), access to credit, owning and managing a business, or in housing or

education; however, societal discrimination lingered, and women generally were

employed in such pursuits as food vending and subsistence farming.

Sharia is applied in marriage, divorce, and inheritance cases for Muslims, who

make up more than 90 percent of the population. Women normally received a

lower proportion of assets distributed through inheritance than men. The

respective churches and the Office of the Attorney General settled civil marriage

and divorce issues affecting Christians.

Marriages often were arranged and, depending on the ethnic group, polygyny was

practiced. Women in polygynous unions had problems with property and other

rights arising from their marriage. They also had the option to divorce but no legal

right to disapprove or be notified in advance of subsequent marriages by their

husbands. The women’s bureau under the Office of the Vice President oversees

programs to ensure the legal rights of women. Active women’s rights groups

existed.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s

territory and from one’s parents; however, not all parents registered births. To

access care at public health centers, authorities required children to have a clinic

card, which was available without birth registration. Authorities often required

birth certificates to enroll in school, and they could easily be obtained.

Education: The constitution and law mandate compulsory, tuition-free primary

education between the ages of six and 12. In October the government announced

plans to make upper basic education free for all students by 2014/15, and for senior

secondary schools in 2015/16. Under the tuition-free primary education plan,

families often had to pay fees for books, uniforms, lunch, school fund

contributions, and examination fees. The Ministry of Basic and Secondary

Education had a policy aimed at abolishing public school fees for primary and

secondary education by 2015, with external grant assistance from the World Bank

and the Global Partnership for Education.

During the year the government estimated primary schools enrolled 75 percent of

children. Islamic schools (madrassas) enrolled another 15 percent. Girls

constituted approximately 51 percent of primary school students and one-third of

high school students. The enrollment of girls was lower in rural areas, where

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

poverty and cultural factors often led parents to decide against sending their

daughters to school. As part of the government’s initiative to increase the number

of girls in school, the government consistently waived tuition for female students.

Child Abuse: There were occasional reported cases of child abuse. Serious cases

of abuse and violence against children were subject to criminal penalties, and

authorities generally enforced laws when cases of child abuse or mistreatment

came to their attention.

The penalty for rape is life imprisonment. Because of the difficulty, however, of

proving rape of minors, particularly very young children, the charge was generally

defilement or having carnal knowledge, both of which carry a prison sentence of

14 years.

In March Reginald Thompson, a British national, allegedly damaged a laptop that

contained a series of child pornography films to prevent it from being used as

evidence against him. In June, Magistrate Tabally ruled in favor of the defense,

noting the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

In October police in the Upper River Region arrested and detained a 35-year-old

man for allegedly raping a 10-year-old girl. The alleged perpetrator was helping

the police in their investigations, according to local press; a trial date had yet to be

set.

Early and Forced Marriage: Carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 16 is a

felony except in the case of marriage, which can be as early as age 12. The

constitution states that “marriage shall be based on the free and full consent of the

intended parties,” although in many villages girls reportedly were forced to marry

at a young age. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2010 multiple

indicator report, 8.6 percent of women married before they were 15 years old,

while 46.5 percent of women were married before the age of 18. The government

worked in conjunction with Tostan and UNICEF on a joint community

empowerment program seeking the abandonment of early and forced marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C,

and the practice remained widespread. In a 2005-06 survey, UNICEF found that

almost 80 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19 had

undergone FGM/C and that seven of the nine major ethnic groups practiced

FGM/C on girls from shortly after birth until age 16. Type 1 was the most

prevalent. FGM/C was less frequent among educated and urban groups. Some

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

religious leaders, such as the State House imam, Abdoulie Fatty, publicly defended

the practice. There were reports of health complications, including deaths,

associated with FGM/C; however, no accurate statistics were available. Several

NGOs conducted public education programs to discourage the practice and spoke

out against FGM/C in the media.

During the year several district chiefs, ward councilors, members of councils of

elders, religious leaders, female leaders, and female circumcisers attended

GAMCOTRAP seminars on the harmful effects of FGM/C. GAMCOTRAP

continued its campaign for a law prohibiting FGM/C. According to a 2011 report,

586 communities had announced their commitment to abandon FGM/C. In

addition Jaha Dukureh launched a campaign to combat FGM/C and coordinated

the first youth-led summit against FGM/C with more than 100 youth participants in

October. The workshop focused on teaching campaigning and social media skills,

and medical and legal facts.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for 14 years’ imprisonment for

commercial sexual exploitation of children and five years for child pornography.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Children were exploited in

prostitution in some brothels, often to support their families. A small number of

children were also trafficked for forced commercial sexual exploitation. NGOs

believed some tourists living in remote guesthouses and motels were involved in

the sexual exploitation of children. Authorities instructed security forces in the

tourism development area to turn away all minors who approached the main resort

areas without an acceptable reason.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague

Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic

acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report

at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

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The constitution prohibits discrimination or exploitation of persons with

disabilities, although it does not expressly reference the kinds of disabilities

protected particularly as regards access to health services, education, and

employment (see section 7.d.); these provisions were effectively enforced. Access

to air travel and other transportation are not specifically mentioned. There were no

laws to provide for access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and very few

buildings in the country were accessible to them. Neither the constitution nor laws

explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory,

intellectual, or mental disabilities. No laws or programs stipulate that persons with

disabilities have access to information or communications. The law requires that

judicial proceedings involving a person with disabilities take into account the

disability.

Persons with severe disabilities experienced discrimination and subsisted primarily

through private charity. Persons with less severe disabilities encountered less

discrimination, including in employment for which they were physically and

mentally capable.

The Department of Social Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of

persons with disabilities and worked with the Gambia Organization for the

Visually Impaired and the School for the Deaf and Blind to help educate children

with disabilities and to promote relevant skills. Most children with disabilities,

however, did not attend school. The department also worked with international

donors to supply wheelchairs to some persons with disabilities. Several NGOs

sought to improve awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and

encouraged their participation in sports and other physical activities. The NHRU

specifically sought to promote the rights of women with disabilities. Persons with

disabilities were given priority access to polling booths on election days.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual

Orientation and Gender Identity

On October 9, the president signed into law an amendment to the criminal code

making “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by life imprisonment. The

bill defines “aggravated homosexuality” to include serial offenders or persons with

a previous conviction for homosexuality, persons having same-sex relations with

someone under the age of 18 and with members of other vulnerable groups, or a

person with HIV having same-sex relations.

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Prior to this amendment, the law established prison terms ranging from five to 14

years for any man who commits in public or private “any act of gross indecency,”

engages a male sex worker, or has actual sexual contact with another man. There

was no similar law applicable to women. There are antidiscrimination laws, but

they do not apply to LGBT individuals.

In October the NIA arrested three suspected persons on suspicion of homosexual

activities, following a security operation targeting persons practicing illegal acts.

At year’s end the High Court had yet to set a trial date.

In November, NIA officers reportedly conducted door-to-door inquiries to identify,

arrest, and detain individuals believed to be homosexual. The UN Office of the

High Commissioner for Human Rights reported many of those detained were

“subjected to violent attacks and mistreatment.”

Amnesty International reported on November 18 that eight individuals, including a

17-year-old boy, were arrested for crimes of homosexuality. They were detained

at the NIA in Banjul. There they were subjected to torture and mistreatment,

including beatings, sensory deprivation, and threat of rape, in order to force

confessions for their “crimes” and to reveal information concerning other persons

perceived to be gay or lesbian. There were reports of citizens fleeing to

neighboring countries due to fear of being arrested.

On February 17, President Jammeh, in a televised address, said, “Homosexuality

will never be tolerated and in fact will attract the ultimate penalty, since it is

intended to bring humanity to an inglorious extinction. We will fight these vermin

called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing

mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” President Jammeh said that “L.G.B.T can

only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria, and Tuberculosis, all of which are

detrimental to human existence.” He added that no diplomatic immunity would be

respected for any diplomat found guilty or accused of being gay and the country

would not accept diplomats who are gay.

The mayor of Kanifing Municipality, Yankuba Colley, who also doubles as the

national mobiliser of the ruling APRC party, said in an interview published in The

Standard on September 26 that “homosexuality is such a grave crime against

nature that homosexuals should be killed.”

There was strong societal discrimination against LGBT individuals. There were no

LGBT organizations in the country.

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS hindered

identification and treatment of persons with the disease and resulted in their

rejection by partners and relatives when their condition became known. The

government took a multi-sectoral approach to fighting HIV/AIDS through its

national strategic plan, which provided for care, treatment, and support to persons

living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The plan also included HIV-prevention

programs for high-risk populations.

Section 7. Worker Rights

  1. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that workers are free to form and join independent unions,

conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Military personnel, police officers,

and other civil service employees are prohibited from forming unions or going on

strike. Unions must register to be recognized. The law requires a minimum

membership of 50 workers for the registration of a trade union. The law also

provides that the registrar of unions may examine without cause the financial

accounts of workers’ associations.

The law restricts the right to strike by requiring unions to give the commissioner of

labor written notice 14 days before beginning an industrial action (28 days for

actions involving essential services). Police and military personnel had access to a

complaints unit, and civil servants could take their complaints to the public service

commission or the government’s personnel management office. An employer may

apply to a court for an injunction to prohibit industrial action deemed to be in

pursuit of a political objective. The court also may forbid action judged to be in

breach of a collectively agreed procedure for settlement of industrial disputes. The

law prohibits retribution against strikers who comply with the law regulating

strikes. Employers may not fire or discriminate against members of registered

unions for engaging in legal union activities, and the law provides for

reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The law also sets minimum

contract standards for hiring, training, and terms of employment and provides that

contracts may not prohibit union membership. No category of workers is excluded

from relevant legal protections. There are no separate regulations supporting the

labor law.

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United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Although there were minimal contentious union activities or labor disputes, the

government generally did not effectively enforce the law. Resources, inspections,

and remediation were inadequate. In May the secretary-general of the Gambia

National Trade Union Congress said, “Most employers evade the [employment

contracts] practice for unscrupulous reasons. Private sector employees should be

duly registered with the Social Security Provident and Injuries Compensation Fund

from the commencement of their employment.” The lack of enforcement of the

labor law reinforced persistent violations.

Authorities respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties.

There were no instances of government interference in union activities, including

the targeted dissolving of unions or the use of excessive force to end strikes or

protests. There were no cases in which authorities denied registration to a union

that applied. There were no incidents of violence, threats, or other abuses targeting

union leaders or members by government or employers.

Although trade unions were small and fragmented, collective bargaining took

place. Unions were able to negotiate without government interference; however,

they lacked experience, organization, and professionalism and often turned to the

government for assistance in negotiations. Collective bargaining, arbitration, or

agreements reached between unions and management determined union members’

wages, which generally exceeded legal minimums. The Department of Labor

registered most collective agreements, which remained valid for three years, after

which they could be renewed.

The government intervened to assist workers whose employers had fired or

discriminated against them. For example, the Department of Labor and the

Gambia Workers Union supported the case of 30 Capital Gas employees alleging

wrongful termination by the proprietor of the company. The complaints also

included nonpayment of overtime, annual leave, and nonpayment of social

security. The case continued at year’s end.

There were no reports of violations of collective bargaining rights or of employers

refusing to bargain, bargaining with unions not chosen by workers, or using other

hiring practices to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. There were no

reports of antiunion discrimination.

  1. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

THE GAMBIA 30

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014

United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor,

including that of children, but the government did not effectively enforce these

laws.

Officials took part in a number of programs designed to increase their sensitivity to

the problem and educate them on ways to investigate and combat the problem, but

child labor continued to occur. Women and children were primary targets

subjected to trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Inadequate resources

made enforcement difficult. While the Labor Act does not specifically protect

against slavery or forced labor, it sets forth general employment protections,

including contractual rights, freedom of association, the right to collective

bargaining, and disciplinary procedures in the workplace, among other important

labor regulations. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

During the year police and social workers did not report any incidents of Quranic

teachers, known as “marabouts,” forcing their students, known as “almudus,” to

sell items on the streets. The practice has become rare since police intervened and

ordered marabouts to stop.

From August to September, President Jammeh issued his annual call for volunteers

to provide free labor at one of his many private farms. According to several

reports, there was an expectation communities and government workers would

participate in this scheme because the government withheld state resources from

villages that did not work. Civil servants allegedly understood their jobs depended

on committing to this annual call for compulsory labor.

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report

at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

  1. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The constitution prohibits economic exploitation of children under age16, and the

law prohibits exploitive labor or hazardous employment of children under age 18.

The Children’s Act sets the minimum age at 16 for light work and at 12 for

apprenticeship in the informal sector.

The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and

conventions on the worst forms of child labor but did not effectively do so. The

government took no action to prevent or combat child labor during the year.

Employee labor cards, which include a person’s age, were registered with the labor

THE GAMBIA 31

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014

United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

commissioner, who is authorized to enforce child labor laws. Nevertheless,

enforcement inspections rarely took place.

Child labor in the informal sector was difficult to regulate. Rising costs of school

fees combined with stagnating incomes prohibited some families from sending

their children to school, contributing to child labor. In urban areas some children

worked as street vendors, domestic laborers, or taxi and bus assistants. There were

a few instances of children begging on the streets. Children between the ages of 14

and 17 also worked in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, tailoring, and auto repair.

Children in rural areas worked on family farms.

From June through December, authorities placed 172 children who were at risk of

being trafficked, including children on the move, in temporary protective care.

Despite collaboration on the problems between many government agencies and a

number of international agencies that focused on the area, government funding was

inadequate and authorities relied heavily on international donations.

Implementation of the Children’s Act and prosecution of suspected offenders also

remained infrequent. Penalties for violations (including minimum imprisonment

for the offense of trafficking in persons from 15 to 50 years of age) were

insufficient to deter violations.

See also the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/.

  1. Discrimination with Respect to Employment or Occupation

The constitution and labor law, except in the case of dismissal and disciplinary

action, do not prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation based on

gender, race, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive

status or other communicable diseases, or social status (see section 6).

There were no reports of discriminatory practices with respect to employment or

occupation.

Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions

as citizens.

  1. Acceptable Conditions of Work

THE GAMBIA 32

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014

United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The minimum wage was 50 dalasi ($1.16) per day, although this covered only the

20 percent of the workforce employed in the formal sector. The government

considered the national poverty baseline to be 38 dalasi ($0.88) per person per day.

Most workers were paid above the minimum wage. The Department of Labor is

responsible for enforcing the minimum wage. A majority of workers were

employed in the private sector or were self-employed, often in agriculture. Most

citizens did not live on a single worker’s earnings and shared resources within

extended families.

The basic legal workweek is 48 hours within a period not to exceed six consecutive

days. The government’s workweek included four 10-hour workdays (Monday

through Thursday) with schools open on Friday, while the private sector typically

operated from Monday through Saturday. There are no limits on hours worked per

week and no prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. A 30-minute lunch

break is mandated. Government employees are entitled to one month of paid

annual leave after one year of service. The government did not pay most

government employees overtime. Government workers holding temporary

positions and private sector workers, however, received overtime pay calculated

per hour. Private sector employees received between 14 and 30 days of paid

annual leave, depending on length of service. There was no exception for foreign

or migrant workers.

The law specifies the safety equipment an employer must provide to employees

working in designated occupations. The law also authorizes the Department of

Labor to regulate factory health and safety, accident prevention, and dangerous

trades and to appoint inspectors to ensure compliance with occupational safety and

health standards. Workers may demand protective equipment and clothing for

hazardous workplaces and have recourse to the department. The law protects

foreign workers employed by the government; however, it provides protection for

privately employed foreigners only if they have a currently valid work permit.

The Department of Labor effectively enforced the wage law and workweek

standards when cases were brought to its attention.

In May the Gambia Labor Congress called on the government “to initiate a salaries

review commission to evaluate the levels and effects inflation has had on the living

standards of the working class, and to make appropriate recommendations for

upward general salary review for all workers in public and private sectors.” At

year’s end the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Employment, and

Employment had yet to respond.

THE GAMBIA 33

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014

United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

On October 1, 13 employees of Njegan Gas Company suffered severe burns and

other injuries at the company’s offices on the Kombo Coastal Road near Sukuta;

eight died from the accident. Those affected had tried to put out a fire caused by

an electrical spark in the company’s waiting room.

There was no specific government action during the year to prevent violations of

workers’ rights or to improve working conditions, particularly for hazardous

sectors or vulnerable groups.

By law workers cannot remove themselves from situations that endangered health

or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities did not effectively

protect employees in this situation.

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