By Alhagie Jobe
A four-member delegation from the European Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Human Rights (DROI) have concluded a visit to The Gambia with a strong call on the government to improve its human rights situation or should it deteriorate, would consider targeted sanctions on officials responsible for the serious rights abuses in the country.
The delegation which composed of David Martin (S&D, UK) former VP of the European Parliament and UK’s longest serving MEP; Richard Howitt (S&D, UK) a former Labour MP for East England; Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL) and Karol Karski (ECR, PL) conducted the visit to gather information, influence the government to improve its human rights record and to support human rights campaigners.
In a dispatched issued and posted on its official website, the European Parliament also called on the Gambian government to release all protestors arrested in connection with the April protests including the UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, to grant access to state media to opposition parties, to allow the United Nations Special Elections Team access to the country as the country votes in December and to conduct an independent investigation into Solo Sandeng’s death.
“The European Parliament had expressed its concerns about the human rights situation in The Gambia in its urgency resolution of May 2016. The resolution was triggered by the Gambian government’s violent repression of peaceful protests in April 2016, by the arrest and torture of protestors, including leading figures from the main opposition party UDP, by the sudden death of the Executive Secretary of the UDP Youth Wing Solo Sandeng in custody and last but not least by serious concern about the likelihood of free and fair presidential elections in December 2016” it stated.
The delegation also encouraged the Gambian government to continue with its plans to establish a National Human Rights Commission saying it has become clear that important provisions of the Gambian constitution are still to be fully implemented, especially those on freedom of speech and prisoners’ rights.
“We are interested in having good relations with The Gambia. If however the human rights situation does not improve or should even deteriorate, the European Parliament has indicated that there would be a need to consider targeted sanctions on officials responsible for serious human rights abuses.” The delegation noted.
During the visit, the delegation also said they had visited two EU-funded projects on empowerment of women and children’s rights, and had meetings with representatives of the National Assembly including the minority leader, with the Independent Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman, with women’s associations and with opposition parties. The delegation appreciated the hospitality and openness of its Gambian counterparts.
“Regrettably, though, government representatives were not available. The delegation also acknowledged the significant progress made in certain areas like the ban on FGM and the envisaged ban on child marriage and were briefed on technical preparations for the elections” it concluded.