DAKAR, Senegal — Gambia’s leader on Wednesday marked the 21st anniversary of the military takeover that catapulted him into power amid a rising climate of fear, a rights group and the opposition said.
Yahya Jammeh’s rule since 1994 in this West African country has been marred by accusations of rights violations.
“For those who believe in human rights, democracy, there is nothing to celebrate,” opposition leader Omar Amadou Jallow said.
In a new report, Amnesty International said Wednesday the human rights situation has deteriorated sharply this past year.
“The climate of fear which has blighted the lives of Gambians for more than two decades worsened over the last 12 months with journalists, people perceived to be gay or lesbian, and those considered to be opponents of the regime and their families increasingly targeted,” said Amnesty’s West Africa researcher Sabrina Mahtani.
Amnesty noted a spike in arrests, detentions and enforced disappearances since a failed coup attempt in December. “Those detained include women, elderly people, and a child, and many are believed to be unwell,” it said.
Journalists and human rights defenders have also been targeted, it said.
Gambian authorities re-abducted radio journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay on July 17, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Ceesay was released last week, after two weeks in custody without explanation, and was then seen being forced into a car on Friday. He wasn’t heard from until Tuesday, the group said.
Jammeh last week also indicated that executions will be resumed, announcing plans to broaden the scope of the death penalty.
The group said the international community and West African bloc “have a duty to address Gambia’s declining human rights record in order to protect people in the country and to avoid instability in the region.”
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