27 January 2017
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) welcomes the peaceful transition of power in The Gambia and the restoration of democracy in the country following the self-exile of former President, Mr Yahya Jammeh.
CHRI appreciates the role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in this process. Yash Ghai, Chair of CHRI’s International Advisory Commission, said, "The restoration of democracy is a positive development for the whole of Africa. Equally welcome is the coming together of the presidents of neighbouring states to restore democracy."
In the 22 year rule of Jammeh after the coup, that brought him to power, The Gambia witnessed a dramatic erosion of the rule of law, grave violations of human rights and severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The hallmarks of Jammeh’s presidency were increasing incidences of unlawful detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings by security forces of dissenters and those who dared to question the government.
In the face of mounting international pressure and fearing expulsion from the Commonwealth Jammeh withdrew The Gambia from the association of 52 states in 2013. More recently he also withdrew The Gambia from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The installation of democratically elected President Barrow marks a moment of high constitutional importance and the restoration of the voice of the people. His early push to free political prisoners, end repressive laws and return the country to the ICC is reassuring. “With the end of Jammeh’s impunity, the people of Gambia can now breathe the freedom which the Constitution has guaranteed them. President Barrow must encourage the thousands of talented Gambians who were forced to flee the country to return and rebuild this beautiful country,” said Sam Okudzeto, former Chair of CHRI International Advisory Commission.
Expressing the hope that the country would soon return to the Commonwealth Sanjoy Hazarika, CHRI’s Director, said “President Barrow’s promise of a new Gambia are consistent with the core Commonwealth values of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and good governance.”