East Dunbartonshire MP, Jo Swinson, met a delegation from the Human Rights in The Gambia Campaign before the holiday season. She heard how politicians, journalists and citizens of all backgrounds are living in fear under the regime of President Yahya Jammeh who took over with a military coup in July 1994.
Recent elections returned him to power and question marks have been raised by international monitoring organisations about the fairness of the November election process. Opponents were given 11 days to campaign in advance of polling day. Several were detained before and after the election. The media and the judiciary are almost exclusively controlled by the Government.
According to an Amnesty International report of 2008, there was a ‘climate of fear’ in the West African country which is part of the Commonwealth. A follow up report published earlier this year, said that the enforced disappearances of people, unlawful killings and torture in The Gambia indicated a ‘deteriorating human rights situation.’
The Lib Dem MP said she was surprised to learn some of the detail and raised questions on the economics of The Gambia and its relationship to Europe, the UK, the USA and the Economic Community of West African States. She said she would consider the information with a view to raising a cross party Early Day Motion in the House of Commons.
She is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Business Secretary Vince Cable in the Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition Government in London and a long standing member of Amnesty International.