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TITLE:  THE GAMBIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                         THE GAMBIA


On July 22, the Gambia National Army (GNA) deposed by coup 
d'etat the democratically elected Government and dismissed the 
democratically elected Parliament.  The four GNA lieutenants 
who planned and led the coup proclaimed themselves the Armed 
Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) under the 
chairmanship of Lt. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, who also became Head 
of State.

The GNA and the police report to the Ministers of Defense and 
Interior.  The regime integrated the police's tactical support 
group (former gendarmerie) into the GNA.  It reassigned, fired, 
summarily retired, or detained nearly all senior security 
officials after it took power and arrested and detained senior 
government officials and members of the press.  It held 
detainees incommunicado and did not acknowledge their 
detentions.

The Gambia's population of just over 1 million consists largely 
of subsistence farmers growing rice, millet, maize, and 
groundnuts (peanuts), the country's primary export crop.  The 
private sector, led by reexporting, fisheries, horticulture, 
and tourism, had begun to flourish, but has been in steep 
decline since the July 22 coup.

The elected Government of Sir Dawda Jawara respected and 
protected human rights.  The coup leaders committed widespread 
and repeated human rights abuses.  The AFPRC detained armed 
forces and police personnel without charge; abolished political 
parties, political activities, and political publications; 
intimidated the press; dissolved local governments; and revoked 
rights to travel and transfer funds or assets for senior 
officials of the Jawara Government.  It declared its decrees 
exempt from legal challenge, and, as noted above, ordered the 
arbitrary arrest, firing, and retirement of government 
officials and civil service employees loyal to the elected 
Government.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

An undetermined number of GNA soldiers died during and 
following an attempted countercoup on November 11.  An AFPRC 
spokesman announced an estimated 16 total deaths during the 
attempt, but specifically named as dead only the 3 purported 
ringleaders.  While it was widely rumored that authorities 
summarily executed many dissident soldiers, the spokesman 
denied that executions had been carried out.  However, the 
military leadership did not provide a full accounting of 
casualties or information on the disposition of remains.  In 
another incident in October, a soldier killed an apparent 
curfew violator under circumstances that remain unclear.  The 
soldier believed involved was detained but remains unidentified.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

While the AFPRC did not suspend that part of the Constitution 
that prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
punishment, it ignored these provisions in regard to former 
ministers and military and police detainees.

Credible reporting indicates that three military and police 
detainees were beaten unconscious at Mile 2 Prison in the 
presence of four members of the AFPRC in early September.

The regime held former ministers of the Jawara Government under 
house arrest for 2 months after the coup, subjected them to 
lengthy interrogation, and then confined them at Mile 2 Prison 
or the National Intelligence Agency (the former National 
Security Service) headquarters for up to several days.  It 
released former ministers from house arrest in September, but 
rearrested and detained 10 former ministers in early November. 
Police physically mistreated one former minister after 
arresting him.

Prison conditions were austere but improving before the July 22 
coup.  While no deaths in prison were reported during the year, 
no other information was available on postcoup conditions for 
the general prison populations at Mile 2 Prison and two other 
confinement facilities.  The AFPRC assigned military guards to 
augment the corrections staff at Mile 2 Prison following the 
coup, and there were credible reports of malnourishment, 
illness, and beatings of military and security detainees.  
Women are not targeted for abuse while in custody.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to 
visit 32 detainees in two places of detention.  Most of the 
detainees are soldiers and police arrested immediately after 
the July 22 coup.  Others are members of the military seized 
after the abortive putsch of November 11.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Before the July coup, there were well-developed constitutional 
and legal procedures governing arrest, detention, and trial.  
After the coup, the regime frequently  and arbitrarily arrested 
military and police personnel, civil servants, parastatal 
staff, and media representatives.  An AFPRC decree authorizes 
detention of military or police officers for 6 months without 
charge.  The same decree permits indefinite detention after 
review by a special tribunal.  Following the coup, the 
authorities acknowledged that they held approximately 30 
military and police detainees, although the total number is 
believed to be higher.  They released 16 detainees in November, 
but did not release or bring to trial the remaining military 
and police detainees.  The regime subjected prominent civilians 
in and out of government to lengthy surprise interrogations in 
uncomfortable circumstances, often lasting overnight, and 
detained some officials for extended periods.

The authorities generally did not permit families, reporters, 
or other private citizens to visit military and police 
detainees.  They did occasionally permit exceptional visits by 
detainees' wives after direct petitions to the vice chairman of 
the AFPRC.

In the aftermath of the November 11 counter-coup attempt, the 
AFPRC ordered new arrests and detentions.  In December, it 
acknowledged holding 32 detainees, including 16 GNA and police 
personnel remaining in detention from the July 22 coup, 13 
persons detained after the November 11 attempted countercoup, 
and 3 others detained for crimes they were alleged to have 
committed while impersonating GNA officers.

The AFPRC has not resorted to exiling opponents.  However, 
three senior officials of the former government--President 
Jawara, Vice President Sabally, and Secretary General 
Janha--remain outside The Gambia under explicit threat of 
arrest and detention if they return.  Other officials who were 
outside the country at the time of the coup are at similar risk.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The AFPRC claimed that judicial provisions of the Constitution 
remained in effect, but it exempted its own decrees from court 
challenge and flagrantly ignored due process rights with 
respect to arrest, detention, and trial.  A tribunal consisting 
of a lawyer, a police officer, and a private citizen were, at 
year's end, reviewing cases of military detainees.  However, 
tribunal action is advisory only, and the AFPRC may order 
indefinite detention of military and police officers following 
the tribunal's review.

The AFPRC appointed commissions to investigate individuals 
suspected of corruption.  These commissions have powers similar 
to a grand jury, including authority to imprison and fine for 
contempt, and to imprison or demand bond from individuals 
considered likely to abscond.  Although modalities are not yet 
clear, findings of the commission are intended to lead to 
prosecution of appropriate cases in civil court.

Although the Constitution provides for an independent 
judiciary, the courts traditionally were responsive to 
executive branch pressure.  The courts' slow prosecution of 
debt recovery cases under the Assets Management and Recovery 
Corporation Act was cited by the AFPRC as evidence of 
corruption under the Jawara Government.  Cases of interest to 
the AFPRC moved quickly following the coup, whereas AFPRC 
intervention impeded prosecution of two cases involving 
individuals in the AFPRC's favor.

The judicial system remains structurally intact and recognizes 
customary, Shari'a, and general law.  Customary law covers 
marriage and divorce for non-Muslims, inheritance, land tenure, 
tribal and clan leadership, and all other traditional and 
social relations.  Shari'a law is observed primarily in Muslim 
marriage and divorce matters.  General law, following the 
English model, applies to felonies, misdemeanors in urban 
areas, and the formal business sector.  Trials are public, and 
defendants have the right to an attorney at their own cost.

Most prisoners detained under the AFPRC's anticorruption 
campaign or for security reasons are political prisoners.  
Along with the military and police personnel in long-term 
detention, authorities detained up to 30 additional persons for 
shorter periods, usually 4 days or less.

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

Although constitutional safeguards against arbitrary search 
remain in place, AFPRC priorities in security matters and 
corruption investigations override these safeguards.  Police 
seized private documents and property without due process and 
placed armed guards at homes and other properties suspected of 
having been acquired with embezzled or misappropriated funds.  
The AFPRC froze accounts of persons under suspicion and 
prohibited by decree the transfer of their property.  It denied 
persons under house arrest access to international telephone 
service.  Police must generally have court orders to conduct 
searches related to crimes unless the individual concerned 
agrees or it is deemed to involve an urgent matter of national 
interest.  The Government has not generally intruded in family 
matters, and this has remained true under the AFPRC.  Security 
officials are believed to monitor telephone communications.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The AFPRC significantly restricted these freedoms.  An AFPRC 
decree prohibits political activities of all kinds, including 
possession and distribution of political literature or engaging 
in political discourse by any other means.  Two senior staff of 
the People's Democratic Organization for Democracy, 
Independence, and Socialism (PDOIS) were convicted of political 
activities and possession of the party's newspaper, Foroyaa 
(Freedom), following promulgation of the decree.  The two 
defendants were required to pay court costs and placed on 
probation for the life of the decree.  Conditions of probation 
included adherence to the decree and avoidance of activity that 
would be deleterious to public order.  If a probationer 
violates these conditions, authorities impose a prison sentence 
of 3 years.

The AFPRC used summary arrest, interrogation, detention, 
beating, and deportation to intimidate and silence journalists 
who published articles deemed inaccurate or sensitive.  Banjul 
Daily Observer editor and publisher Kenneth Y. Best, a Liberian 
national, was deported on October 30 following a series of 
interrogations and detentions prompted by news stories the 
AFPRC considered excessively critical.  All Gambian newspapers 
exercised self-censorship.  English, French, and other foreign 
newspapers and magazines are available.

There is no television in The Gambia, although the country 
receives Senegalese broadcasts.  Private consumers also use 
satellite systems but these remain rare.  The one government 
and two private radio stations normally did not reach listeners 
in the eastern part of the country.  Private radio stations 
simulcast news provided by Radio Gambia, the government 
station.  Senegalese and international radio broadcasts attract 
wide audiences.  There is no university in The Gambia.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The AFPRC decree bans political meetings of any kind and 
political organizations.  Other kinds of assembly are open to 
the public require police permits.  Prior to the coup, police 
routinely granted permits.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Adherents of all faiths are free to worship without government 
restriction.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Freedom of movement for ordinary citizens remained unimpeded, 
but the authorities prohibited those under investigation for 
corruption or security charges from leaving the country.

The Gambia continues to host approximately 2,000 Senegalese 
refugees, and the AFPRC continued to work with the office of 
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the 
Gambian Red Cross, and other organizations in dealing with 
refugees.

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

Citizens do not have the right to change their government 
through peaceful means.  The AFPRC exercises total power.  The 
first decree issued by the AFPRC suspended legislative and 
executive sections of the Constitution, including provisions 
for Parliament and elections.  AFPRC Chairman Jammeh repeatedly 
stated that Western democracy is inappropriate for The Gambia.  
Four ministers of the 13 in the AFPRC Executive Council 
(cabinet) are women.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The AFPRC indicated that international human rights concerns 
are not appropriate for those suspected of corruption or 
involvement in subversion, since they are considered 
criminals.  However, the AFPRC granted the ICRC unsupervised 
access to military and police detainees for one visit in 
November.  Human rights advocates, including representatives of 
the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and 
the International Commission of Jurists, attempted to open a 
dialog but were largely ignored by the AFPRC.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

There is no officially sanctioned discrimination based on race, 
sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.

     Women

Although four women were appointed to the Executive Council, 
women face extensive discrimination in education and 
employment.  AFPRC chairman Jammeh criticized women's rights 
advocates, asserting that their advocacy promoted divisiveness.

Females constitute about one-third of primary school students 
and roughly one-fourth of the high school enrollment.  
Employment in the formal sector is open to women at the same 
salary rates as men.  No statutory discrimination exists in 
other kinds of employment, although women are generally 
employed in endeavors such as food vending or subsistence 
farming.  Shari'a law is usually applied in divorce and 
inheritance matters.  Marriages are usually arranged, and 
polygyny is practiced.  Women normally receive a lower 
proportion of assets distributed through inheritance than male 
relatives.

Domestic violence, including spouse abuse, is occasionally 
reported but is not common.  Police respond when cases are 
reported, and prosecute offenders if citizens file complaints.  
The media report on cases under trial.

     Children

The care and welfare of children is considered primarily a 
family responsibility.  Authorities intervene when cases of 
abuse or maltreatment are brought to their attention.

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread 
and entrenched.  Up to 60 percent of females may have undergone 
this procedure in early youth.  Although found by health 
experts to be both physically and psychologically damaging, 
rural women strongly support the practice.  In 1993 village 
women drove a prominent female FGM opponent from an upcountry 
village for speaking against the custom.  The AFPRC has yet to 
take a position on FGM.

Young male children in the care of Koranic teachers have 
elicited significant concern.  These children, known as 
Almudos, are put in the care of Koranic scholars for a period 
of Koranic education.  Almudos are expected to beg for their 
food and clothing as well as to support their teachers.  The 
Ministry of Health and Social Welfare published a report on 
Almudos and other street children in June.  The report details 
hardships experienced by Almudos and recommends:  legislation 
to regulate Koranic education, including a ban on placement of 
children with traditional teachers; regional cooperation to 
deal with the practice; and establishment of health and 
nutritional services for Almudos and other street children.  
The AFPRC has not reacted to the report.

     People with Disabilities

There are no statutes or regulations requiring accessibility 
for the handicapped.

No legal discrimination against the physically disabled exists 
in employment, education, or other state services.  Most 
severely handicapped individuals subsist through private 
charity.  Less severely handicapped persons are fully accepted 
in society and encounter no discrimination in employment for 
which they are physically capable.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Labor law remains unmodified by the AFPRC regime.  The Labor 
Act of 1990 applies to all workers except civil servants.  The 
Act specifies that workers are free to form associations, 
including trade unions, and provides for their registration 
with the Government.  It specifically prohibits police officers 
and military personnel, as well as other civil service 
employees, from forming unions or striking.

Approximately 20 percent of the work force is employed in the 
modern wage sector, where unions are normally active.  Roughly 
30,000 workers are claimed as union members, or about 10 
percent of the work force.  The Gambian Worker's Confederation 
and the Gambian Workers' Union are the two main independent and 
competing umbrella organizations.  Both are recognized by the 
Government, but relations with the AFPRC were not tested.

The Labor Act of 1990 authorizes strikes but requires that 
unions give the Commissioner of Labor 14 days' written notice 
before beginning an industrial action (28 days for essential 
services).  It prohibits retribution against strikers who 
comply with the law regulating strikes.  Upon application by an 
employer to the Supreme Court, the Court may prohibit 
industrial action that is ruled to be in pursuit of a political 
objective.  The Court may also forbid action judged to be in 
breach of a collectively agreed procedure for settlement of 
industrial disputes.

Because of these provisions and the weakness of unions, few 
strikes occur.  Strike action was largely limited to a series 
of slowdowns and wildcat strikes by sanitation workers in 
greater Banjul to protest unpaid wages.  These were interrupted 
by the July 22 coup did not resume.

Unions may affiliate internationally, and there are no 
restrictions on union members' participation in international 
labor activities.  The Gambia is not a member of the 
International Labor Organization.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Act of 1990 allows workers to organize and bargain 
collectively.  Although trade unions are small and fragmented, 
collective bargaining does take place.  Each recognized union 
has guidelines for its activities specified by the appropriate 
industrial council established and empowered by the Labor Act.  
Union members' wages exceed legal minimums and are determined 
by collective bargaining, arbitration, or market forces.  The 
Labor Department registers agreements reached between unions 
and management after insuring that the agreements are in 
compliance with labor law.  No denial of registration has been 
reported.  The 1990 Act also sets minimum contract standards 
for hiring, training, terms of employment, wages, and 
termination of employment.  The Act provides that contracts may 
not prohibit union membership.  Employers may not fire or 
discriminate against members of registered unions engaged in 
legal union activities.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Criminal Code prohibits compulsory labor, and it is not 
practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The statutory minimum age for employment is 18.  There is no 
compulsory education, and because of limited secondary school 
openings most children complete formal education by age 14 and 
then begin work.  Employee labor cards, which include a 
person's age, are registered with the Labor Commissioner, but 
enforcement inspections rarely take place.  Child labor 
protection does not extend to youth performing customary chores 
on family farms or engaged in petty trading.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages and working hours are established by law through 
six joint industrial councils--Commerce, Artisans, Transport, 
Port Operations, Agriculture, and Fisheries.  Labor, 
management, and government are represented on these councils.  
The lowest minimum wage is $0.94 (9 Dalasi) per day for 
unskilled labor.  This minimum wage is not adequate to sustain 
a suitable standard of living for a worker and family.  Only 20 
percent of the labor force--those in the formal economic 
sector--are covered by the minimum wage law.  The majority of 
workers are privately or self-employed, often in agriculture.  
Most Gambians do not live on a single worker's earnings but 
share resources within extended families.

The basic legal workweek is 48 hours within a period not to 
exceed 6 consecutive days.  A half-hour lunch break is 
mandated.  In the private sector, the workweek includes four 
8-hour workdays and 2 half-days (Friday and Saturday).  
Government employees are entitled to 1 month's paid annual 
leave after 1 year of service.  Private sector employees 
receive between 14 and 30 days of paid annual leave, depending 
on length of service.

The Labor Act specifies safety equipment that an employer must 
provide to employees working in designated occupations.  The 
Factory Act authorizes the Ministry of Labor to regulate 
factory health and safety, accident prevention, and dangerous 
trades and to appoint inspectors to ensure compliance with 
safety standards.  Enforcement is spotty owing to insufficient 
and inadequately trained staff.  Workers may refuse to work in 
dangerous situations and may demand protective equipment and 
clothing for hazardous workplaces.

(###)


[end of document]

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