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GAMBIA: UN inspectors denied prison access after they condemn 'consistent practice' of torture

Gambia has again demonstrated its blatant disregard for human rights by stopping a United Nations team from investigating allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, were denied access to detention centres where prisoners are believed to be at high risk of torture.

Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said:

“The UN's human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a ‘consistent practice’ in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force. Denying monitors access to the country's prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide.

“Following stinging criticism by more than 62 countries at the UN last month, this blocked visit must serve to mobilise international pressure on Gambia to end its use of torture to muzzle dissent. Such flagrant flouting of international human rights law should be impossible to ignore.”

The blocked visit comes just weeks after Gambia was heavily criticised for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN).

Gambia initially accepted the UN officials’ terms of reference but then denied them access to certain prison areas. These include the security wing of ‘Mile 2’ prison in the capital Banjul where death row inmates are detained, often in solitary confinement for lengthy periods, and subjected to torture.

The UN team also criticised Gambia’s renewed use of the death penalty. 

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