WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski and U.S. Representatives Chris Van Hollen and John K. Delaney, (all D-Md.), issued the following joint statement Thursday calling on the government of The Gambia to immediately release Fanta Jawara, a Maryland resident who has been jailed in that country since April.
“Mrs. Fanta Jawara is an American citizen from Frederick, Maryland whose only crime appears to be visiting family in The Gambia. We are extremely concerned about her continued incarceration and call for her immediate release. The constitution of The Gambia specifically provides for the right to due process, freedom of political association and the right to peaceful assembly as well as outlaws torture. We urge the Gambian government to meaningfully adhere to the rights enshrined in their constitution by releasing Mrs. Jawara and other peaceful protesters, and respecting freedom of speech and the media.”
For months, protestors in the Gambian capital of Banjul have advocated for electoral reforms, and the resignation of President Yahya Jammeh. The government has repeatedly engaged in mass arrests of protesters and harassment of political opposition in the lead up to the elections, which are currently scheduled to take place in December. In April, Solo Sandeng, the National Organizing Secretary of the United Democratic Party—the main opposition party—died after he was arrested. Witnesses allege security personnel tortured him while he was in detention.
President Jammeh has been in power since taking over in a military coup in 1994. His government has been accused of gross violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests. Media freedom and freedom of speech are not respected, and harassment of journalists has been widely reported.