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Title:  The Gambia Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996

                               THE GAMBIA

The Gambia is controlled by a military government, the Armed Forces 
Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), which seized power in a coup d'etat 
in 1994.  The AFPRC deposed the democratically elected government of Sir 
Dawda Jawara.  Captain Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, 
remained Head of State throughout 1995.  Under Jammeh, the main 
decisionmaking organization is the military-controlled AFPRC.  It rules 
by decree and declares its decrees exempt from legal challenge.

The Gambia National Army (GNA) reports to the Minister of Defense.  The 
police report to the Minister of Interior.  The National Intelligence 
Agency (NIA), established in June by government decree, reports directly 
to the AFPRC but is otherwise autonomous.  The AFPRC and others were 
responsible for numerous serious human rights abuses.

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, contracted 
continuously since the 1994 coup.  Cuts in international economic 
assistance have worsened the economic decline.

The Government's poor human rights record worsened during the year as 
the coup leaders continued to commit widespread and repeated human 
rights abuses.  Citizens do not have the right to change their 
government.  The AFPRC also arrested and detained senior government 
officials and members of the press.  It held detainees incommunicado and 
did not acknowledge their detentions, detained armed forces and police 
personnel without charge, banned political parties, curbed political 
activities, publications, and other communications, intimidated the 
press, dissolved local governments, and revoked rights to travel and 
transfer funds or assets for senior officials of the former Jawara 
government.  The courts have traditionally been subject to a certain 
degree of executive influence.  AFPRC decrees have abrogated due process 
and allowed the Government to search, seize, and detain without warrant 
or legal proceedings.  The AFPRC ordered the arbitrary arrest, firing, 
and retirement of government officials and civil service employees loyal 
to the previous government.  Security forces have tortured detainees.  
Discrimination against women persists.  While health professionals have 
focused greater attention on the dangers of female genital mutilation 
(FGM), this practice is widespread and entrenched.

The AFPRC shortened the transition schedule for return to a democratic, 
civilian government from 4 years to 2 years because of pressure from the 
international community, concerns over the collapse of tourism and other 
business activity, and in response to expressions of Gambian political 
views.  It repeatedly denied its intention to stay in power and, 
although delayed, has proceeded with the transition timetable.  The 
National Consultative Commission has completed its work.  Despite harsh 
press intimidation, a relatively free, outspoken press still exists.


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

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Former Minister of Interior Sadibou Haidara, arrested in an alleged 
countercoup January 27, died June 3 in prison.  Although the AFPRC 
attributed his death to preexisting high blood pressure, Haidara's death 
is widely believed to have resulted from intentional mistreatment by 
prison authorities.  While an autopsy was performed, the results were 
not made public.

On June 23, Finance Minister Ousman Koro-Ceesay's charred remains were 
found in his burned vehicle with part of his skull missing.  He had 
attended Chairman Jammeh's departure from Yundum International Airport 
earlier that day.   As with the Haidara case, no results of any 
investigations were made public.  It is widely believed that Ceesay's 
death was a politically motivated killing by the AFPRC.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.  In May 
two GNA soldiers, allegedly under the orders of the AFPRC, attempted to 
abduct Lamin Waa Juwara, former independent Niamina Minister of 
Parliament.  They were unsuccessful.

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

While the AFPRC did not suspend provisions of the Constitution 
prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, 
it ignored these provisions in its treatment of former ministers and 
military and police detainees.

Former AFPRC Vice Chairman Sabally, arrested in the alleged January 
countercoup, was detained without visitation rights at Mile 2 prison.  
He was widely believed to have been tortured after his arrest, and 
credible reports indicate he has lost some of the use of his hands 
because of torture by electric shock.

Conditions at Mile 2 prison are reported to be austere, overcrowded, and 
lacking in medical facilities.  Prisoners are locked in their cells for 
more than 20 hours each day.  Other reports indicate that the AFPRC 
assigned military guards to augment the corrections staff at the prison, 
and there were credible reports of malnourishment, illness, and beatings 
of military and security detainees.  In March military police surrounded 
the prison because of reports of demonstrations against poor food and 
living conditions, and long detention without trial.  Women are housed 

There was one death while under detention (see Section 1.a.).

In June the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited the 
Mile 2 facility and reported that 33 of the original 58 detainees known 
to the ICRC were still imprisoned.  According to the ICRC, at least 7 of 
these detainees are political prisoners and the other 25 were released.  
Since the ICRC's visit, only sporadic prison information became 
available.  August press reports list a total of 50 detained military 
personnel.  The ICRC visited again in October and reported that 
conditions were adequate.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The AFPRC frequently and arbitrarily arrested military and police 
personnel, civil servants, parastatal staff, and media representatives.  
In June the AFPRC declared by decree that the NIA would have the power 
to search, seize, detain, or arrest any individual or property without 
due process.  In October the AFPRC issued a decree allowing a 90-day 
detention without charge and without writ of habeas corpus which has 
retroactive force.  

After promulgation of Decree 57, incidents of targeted searches and 
investigations increased.  The AFPRC primarily targeted nongovernmental 
organizations and members of the press for investigation and detention.  
In July six employees of the Daily Observer newspaper were interrogated 
and released by NIA officers in reference to an advertisement in the 
newspaper.  The NIA suspected that the advertisement was a coded message 
to trigger a mercenary takeover.

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.  
For example, vice president of the Gambian Bar Association Ousainou 
Darbo was detained incommunicado from October 15 through November 6, 
when he was released unconditionally.  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' spouses after direct petitions to the Vice Chairman of the 

At least 14 of those detained during the July 1994 coup remained in 
custody at year's end.  The AFPRC has not provided an accounting of 
current detainees.  Some of those detained after the attempted 
countercoup in November 1993 were granted amnesty; the authorities 
brought charges against others.  Along with the military and police 
personnel in long-term detention, authorities detained an unknown number 
of additional people for shorter periods, ranging from hours to 26 days.

In the alleged countercoup attempt in January, the AFPRC arrested and 
detained an additional group of opposition figures, including Sabally 
and Haidara.  Sabally's trial ended in December; he was convicted on two 
charges and sentenced to a total of 9 years' imprisonment, to be served 
concurrently (see Section 1.c).  

There was another wave of detentions in October.  Many of those detained 
had ties to the Peoples Progressive Party.  The AFPRC has not formally 
exiled its opponents.  However, three senior officials of the former 
government, President Jawara, Vice President Sabally, and secretary 
general Janha, remain abroad 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

Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the 
courts are traditionally responsive to executive branch pressure.  The 
judicial system comprises a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council 
(based in London), the Supreme Court of The Gambia, The Gambia Court of 
Appeal, and the magistrate courts (one in each of the five divisions 
plus one in Banjul and one in Kanifing).  Village chiefs preside over 
local courts at the village level.  The AFPRC claimed that judicial 
provisions of the Constitution remained in effect, but it exempted its 
own decrees from court challenge and ignored due process with respect to 
arrest, detention, and trial.

In early 1995, detention review tribunals comprised of a lawyer, a 
police officer, and a private citizen completed recommendations on the 
cases of military detainees.  In most cases, the tribunal did not find 
enough to merit to continue the detentions.  Tribunal action was 
advisory only.  The AFPRC could have ordered the indefinite detention of 
military and police officers from the 1994 coup and countercoup.  

Since coming to power, the AFPRC granted amnesty to 38 detained soldiers 
from the 1994 coup.  Seven others were sentenced to 9 years' 
imprisonment in June for a November 1994 countercoup attempt.  

The AFPRC appointed a number of commissions to investigate individuals 
and organizations suspected of corruption.  These commissions have 
powers similar to that of a grand jury, including the authority to 
imprison and fine for contempt, and to imprison or demand bond from 
individuals considered likely to abscond.

The AFPRC seized over 6,000 tons of imported rice owned by a Gambian 
business consortium.  While the rice had all appropriate health 
documents, it was declared "unfit for human consumption," and summarily 
dumped into the ocean.  The AFPRC neither waited for nor acknowledged 
judicial decisionmaking authority in the issue.

Despite these incidents, 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.  Under Shari'a, women receive half of what men receive 
in inheritance.  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.

The trial of former AFPRC Vice Chairman Sabally was conducted in a 
military court with a civilian judge at Fajara military barracks.  He 
was charged with three counts of treason.  This trial was closed to the 
public and all reports came from the army press office (see Section 

Three journalists from The Point newspaper were arrested in March and 
charged with inciting public alarm.  After a trial lasting 6 months, all 
three were acquitted.

Although total numbers are not available, most prisoners detained under 
the AFPRC's anticorruption campaign, or for security reasons, are 
political prisoners.  

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

Existing constitutional safeguards against arbitrary search and seizure 
were abrogated as part of Decree 45.  AFPRC priorities in security 
matters and corruption investigations override all constitutional 
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 people under suspicion and prohibited by decree 
the transfer of their property.  It denied persons under house arrest 
access to international telephone service.  Security officials are 
believed to monitor and record telephone communications.

Because of the ban on political parties and activity, membership in 
political organizations is forbidden.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press but in 
practice the AFPRC significantly restricted these freedoms.  AFPRC 
Decree 11 prohibits political activities of all kinds, including 
possession and distribution of political literature or engaging in 
political discourse by any other means.

The AFPRC attempts to require diplomats to secure government approval 
for all public statements.  The AFPRC used summary arrest, 
interrogation, and detention, to intimidate and silence journalists who 
published articles which it deemed inaccurate or sensitive.  Six 
employees of the Daily Observer were arrested and questioned in 
reference to an advertisement in June.  Fear and government activity 
forced all the newspapers to exercise self-censorship.  English, French, 
and other foreign newspapers and magazines are available.

The NIA began harassing two journalists from The Point following their 
acquittal in September (see Section 1.e.).  It prevented journalist Pap 
Saine from leaving the country and instructed immigration officials to 
seize Saine's passport and investigate his nationality.  It later 
allowed Saine to leave.  Non-Gambian journalists were also a target of 
NIA intimidation.  Journalist Brima Ernest, a native of Sierra Leone, 
was forced into hiding for fear of deportation.  He has since fled the 
country.  Sierra Leonean journalist Cherno Ceesay was arrested for 
articles he wrote about alleged police beatings.  He was deported.

Although the AFPRC called for analysis and criticism of its government, 
it has on occasion carried out reprisals upon individuals who publicly 
criticized the Government.  Although there is no television station, the 
country receives broadcasts from Senegal.  Private consumers also use 
satellite systems, but these systems are rare.  Creation of the 
country's first station, which will be a parastatal organization, is in 

Broadcasts from 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 but a university extension program was 
established in November, and classes were scheduled to begin in 1996.  
In October a teacher was questioned by the NIA regarding some remarks he 
had made to a student about the AFPRC.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

AFPRC Decree Four bans political organizations and political meetings of 
any kind.  Other kinds of assembly open to the public require police 
permits, which are generally easy to obtain.  The Government discouraged 
people from gathering in large groups.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution, which was partially suspended or modified after the 
AFPRC took power, and traditional laws provide for freedom of religion.  
Adherents of all faiths are free to worship without government 

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement.  Freedom of movement 
for ordinary citizens remained unimpeded, but the authorities prohibited 
those under investigation for corruption or security charges from 
leaving the country.  All civil servants and government officials must 
obtain permission to leave the country.  Journalists have, in addition, 
been required to produce travel clearances.  Former ministers were not 
allowed to leave The Gambia.

In October there was a large influx of refugees from the Casamance 
region of Senegal.  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, the Gambian Red 
Cross, and other organizations in dealing with refugees.  The Government 
does not force repatriation of those with a valid claim to refugee 

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

Citizens do not have the right to change their government.  Political 
parties are banned, and 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.  
The AFPRC has promised to hold elections by July 1996.  

At one point this year, four of the 13 ministers in the AFPRC Executive 
Council (cabinet) were women.  The AFPRC has appointed more women to 
government posts than the previous government.  

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.  There are two 
organizations whose primary mandate is the promotion of human rights--
the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) and the African Centre 
for Democracy and Human Rights Studies.  ISHR has conducted training in 
democratic rights and civic education.  In October it denounced the 
AFPRC decrees and called for their abrogation.  

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination against persons based on race, 
sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.


Domestic violence, including spouse abuse, is occasionally reported but 
its occurrence is reportedly not extensive.  Police respond if cases are 
reported, and prosecute offenders if citizens file complaints.  The 
media cover cases on trial.

Shari'a law usually applies 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 do male relatives.

Although four women were appointed to the AFPRC executive council, women 
face extensive discrimination in education and employment.  Females 
constitute about one-third of primary school students and roughly one-
fourth of high school students.

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.


The Government does not mandate compulsory education and secondary 
opportunities are limited.  The care and welfare of children in distress 
is considered primarily a family responsibility.  Authorities intervene 
if cases of abuse or maltreatment are brought to their attention.

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely 
condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical 
and psychological health, is widespread and entrenched.  Up to 60 
percent of females may have undergone this procedure in early youth.  
Rural women strongly support the practice of female circumcision.  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.

Early in the year, the AFPRC deported to Senegal most of the Almudo 
population, rumored to be as large as 350 students and teachers.  The 
situation of the Almudos, mostly Senegalese young male Koranic students 
aged 8 to 12 placed in the care of Koranic teachers, has elicited 
significant concern.  These children are expected to beg for their food 
and clothing as well as to support their teachers.  

  People with Disabilities

There are no statutes or regulations requiring accessibility for the 
disabled.  No legal discrimination against the physically disabled 
exists in employment, education, or other state services.  Severely 
disabled individuals subsist primarily through private charity.  Less 
severely disabled 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.  About 20 percent of 
the work force is employed in the modern wage sector, where unions are 
most active.  Roughly 30,000 workers are union members, 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 

The Labor Act 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, but 
unions may appeal the decision.  Because of these provisions and the 
weakness of unions, few strikes occur.

Unions may affiliate internationally, and there are no restrictions on 
union members' participation in international labor activities.  The 
country, applied in June to join the International Labor Organization 
(ILO).  It has been accepted in principle, but must make modifications 
to its labor and employment laws.  Furthermore, because The Gambia is 
currently under military, not democratic, rule, it cannot be admitted to 
ILO membership.  

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Act 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 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 years.  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 about $1.35 (14 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 citizens 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 work days 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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