Gambia Steps Up Rights Abuses After Coup Bid, Amnesty Says

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Gambia has ramped up its abuses of human rights in the past year, targeting homosexuals and government opponents and their family members, Amnesty International said.

The state has mounted a security crackdown after a failed coup in December, detaining dozens of friends and relatives of people accused of involvement in the plot and holding them at an unknown location, the London-based rights group said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. Adding to concerns, President Yahya Jammeh indicated earlier this month that he may lift a 2012 conditional moratorium on executions, Amnesty said.

The state is also targeting journalists, human rights advocates and homosexuals, it said. At least eight gays and lesbians have been arrested and tortured since Gambia last year criminalized “aggravated homosexuality” and introduced life sentences for some acts by homosexuals, Amnesty said.

The climate of fear and the country’s economic troubles are driving people from Gambia to Europe, often taking migrants on a dangerous journey by sea, according to Amnesty.

“Human rights violations in Gambia are increasing,” Amnesty said. Gambia should “release all those detained unlawfully, unless they are charged with recognizable criminal offenses and undergo fair trials, and to release all prisoners of conscience.”

Jammeh, 50, took charge in a bloodless coup. He celebrated 21 years in power on Wednesday by pardoning people guilty of treason during his rule and commuting the sentences of some criminals convicted on murder and drug charges.

Two U.S. citizens of Gambian descent have been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to overthrow the government in the failed coup in December.

No one answered the phone at Gambia’s presidency in the capital, Banjul, on Wednesday.

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