UN monitors denied prison access as they condemn ‘consistent practice’ of torture
Gambia has again demonstrated its blatant disregard for human rights by stopping a UN team from investigating allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Amnesty International said today.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, were denied access to detention centres where prisoners are believed to be at high risk of torture.
“The UN's human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a 'consistent practice' in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force. Denying monitors access to the country's prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
The blocked visit comes just weeks after Gambia was heavily criticized for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN).
"Following stinging criticism by more than 62 countries at the UN last month, this blocked visit must serve to mobilize international pressure on Gambia to end its use of torture to muzzle dissent. Such flagrant flouting of international human rights law should be impossible to ignore," Cockburn added.
Gambia initially accepted the UN officials' terms of reference but then denied them access to certain prison areas. These include the security wing of 'Mile 2' prison in the capital Banjul where death row inmates are detained, often in solitary confinement for lengthy periods, and subjected to torture.
The UN team also criticized Gambia's renewed use of the death penalty.
"Gambia's record on the death penalty also represents a backwards step. Having made no use of the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment for 27 years, its resumption in 2011 is another stain on Gambia's human rights record," Stephen Cockburn said.