The increased military presence deployed across Gambia since President Yayha Jammeh rejected the election result risks heightening the current climate of intimidation and harassment in the country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned today.
“This is deeply worrying, given the record of human rights violations in The Gambia, including excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary detention and deaths in custody, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees,” Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
The High Commissioner also urged the Gambian authorities to allow people to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, association and freedom of expression. “All those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable.”
President Jammeh, who initially accepted his loss in the elections, later rejected the results published by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and filed a petition with the Supreme Court.
Mr. Zeid urged the President and all political parties to respect the result of the elections, the democratic process and the independent status of the IEC, whose premises were taken over by the army on Tuesday and officials ordered to leave.
“All parties should conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful atmosphere during this crucial period and, in particular, avoid using inflammatory language. We urge all sides to reaffirm their commitment to democracy and to work to ensure that there is a peaceful handover of the presidency by 18 January in line with the freely expressed desire and will of the Gambian people,” the High Commissioner stressed.
“President Jammeh and his Government should avoid resorting to threats or acts of intimidation, including against Mr. Barrow and his supporters, and members of the IEC,” he added.