Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent
There may be no shortage of human rights abusers within the hallowed cloisters of the Commonwealth, but few exemplify the need for international scrutiny better than The Gambia.
Arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings are normal. Homosexuality is a capital offence. Yet the country thrives on tourists and their ignorance. The Foreign Office advice to travellers is simply “not to be drawn into conversations regarding the death penalty”. Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, the Amnesty International West Africa Researcher, said: “The level of oppression is appalling.”
When Yahya Jammeh, the President, thought witches had killed his aunt in 2009, he force-fed 1,000 people a hallucinogenic potion as part of a state-sponsored witch-hunt. At least two people died and dozens suffered kidney problems.
On August 26 he abandoned a moratorium on the death sentence and had nine prisoners executed by firing squad. When two journalists asked police for permission to protest at the deaths, they were held for four days and their homes were raided.