Gambia 2018 Report on – Freedom Of Assembly, Police and Security Forces

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Freedom Of Assembly – Restrictive laws on freedom of peaceful assembly had not yet been amended. On 23 November, Gambia’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1961, requiring police permission for peaceful assembly, did not violate the Constitution.

On 2 June, one person died and at least six were injured when the ECOWAS coalition force fired live ammunition to disperse demonstrators near Yahya Jammeh’s former residence in the village of Kanilai. The government committed to holding an investigation, but no information had been made public by the end of the year. The Occupy Westfield movement was initially authorized to peacefully protest against electricity and water shortages, but permission was denied on 11 November.

The protest was dispersed on 12 November by riot police.

Police and Security Forces –  In February the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which practiced torture and arbitrary detention under the previous government, was renamed the State Intelligence Services and its powers of detention ended through a government policy decision. However, the changes were not supported by new legislation. During the following months, the heads of the police, prison, intelligence agency and military were replaced.

However, there had not been systemic reform of these institutions, or any vetting of people who had committed serious human rights abuses. Civil society groups expressed concern that the government had not taken steps to preserve documentary and physical evidence of abuses by the security forces, particularly the NIA.

In July, 12 soldiers were arrested on allegations connected to “mutinous and seditious” posts on social media in support of former President Jammeh. They were held without charge in military detention until being brought to court on 17 November, in violation of detention time limits set in the Constitution. On 27 November, 10 were charged with treason and mutiny and two with negligent interference of lawful custody.

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