Aug 31, 2009, 7:22 AM
Amnesty International has just released its damning report on the human rights situation in The Gambia. In the report, the human rights watch body urges the Gambian government to improve on its human rights record, ranging from long-term detention without trial, alleged ill treatment of detainees to unhygienic detention centres. Complying with the Amnesty International report will boost our image in the international community.
Long before the Amnesty International report, we had been campaigning for respect for human rights in the country. We believe that respect for human rights is essential for a successful democracy. Where journalists are detained or made to disappear without a trace, there is a gross violation of human rights. It is tempting to disregard the report as the ranting of some disgruntled elements "full of sound and fury but signifying nothing". Ignoring the report smacks of naivety; it is like playing the ostrich. Donors consider such reports in their dealings with beneficiary countries. It is unlikely that countries with poor human rights records will attract support from donor countries.
Since it is possible that our poor human rights record could discourage donors from lending a helping hand to us in times of need, the authorities should do their best to comply with the Amnesty International report.
Although the report did not specifically mention it, we nonetheless call on the government to repeal the two draconian press laws - the Criminal (Amendment) Code 2004 and the Newspaper Registration Act 2004. We hold that both laws get in the way of our work as journalists. They should also do all that they can to get Chief Ebrima Manneh for us.
It is clear from the report that the world is increasingly becoming intolerant of governments that abuse human rights. It is also clear that the world wants to see the independence of the judiciary respected. We must move along with the mores of the time. The twelfth point of the Amnesty International recommendations is very important. It says: "Fully co-operate with the UN-ECOWAS joint investigation into the killing of 50 migrants, including 44 Ghanaians, to ensure that investigations can be carried out promptly and without interference to ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice."
We would also like to add that investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara should be carried out to their logical conclusions. In respect of the Deyda Hydara murder, we are not calling for vengeance; we are simply calling for justice.
The earlier the authorities act on the Amnesty International report, the better for the people and government of The Gambia. We need all the financial support that we can get in this period of recession. It is important that the authorities issue a statement in response to the allegations in the Amnesty International report in order to clear the air.
"Man is a wolf to man."
Titus Maccius Plautus