The African Union have asked The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mama Fatima Singhateh to investigate the reports of the death in custody of at least three protesters - and if true - to ensure prompt arrest and prosecution of those involved in their torture-death.

Attorney General Singhateh said the protesters assembled unlawfully and argued that the security forces tried to manage the situation. The country’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang has denied knowing of the arrest or torture of a leading senior opposition figure Solo Sandeng who has been confirmed to have died in custody after being tortured on Thursday night.

The European Union said it “is particularly concerned about the fate of Mr. Solo Sandeng and other opposition politicians who took part in the protest, as well as on reports on ill-treatment of persons taken into custody,” in a statement on its website.

The Gambia’s laws allow for peaceful assembly and do not require a permit unless where a sound amplifying system is to be used. Around the same time last year, members of the opposition UDP party had a standoff with the police at Fass, about six miles from the border town of Amdallahi in Senegal.

The African Union has asked Banjul to ensure the speedy release of all persons arrested.

Former colonial master expresses deep concerns

Whiles relations between the Gambia and its former colonial master Great Britain are at its lowest, the latter’s Minsiter of African Affairs James Duddridge has expressed deep concerns over allegations of excessive violence and ill treatment of those in custody.

Mr Duddridge has called on The Gambian authorities to investigate these claims in a thorough and transparent manner, ensuring that anyone responsible for any wrongdoing is held accountable and brought to justice.

The Indemnity Act protects security forces from prosecution

The Gambia passed a protection law that gives immunity to security forces who use force that results to the death of a person during the suppression of a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

“The right of people to protest peacefully has been met with a consistently repressive response over the years,” said Satang Nabaneh, a Gambian human rights lawyer. “The current deplorable trends in the Gambia characterized by the complete disregard of the rule of law and the personalization of the state by President Jammeh over the past two decades pose a clear and present danger to national security.

The country currently carries a plethora of laws and practices by the regime that severely limits and destroys human rights and human dignity.”

The last protest in Gambia was 16 years ago. Gambian rights campaigners have accused the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh and Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy of being complicit in the killing of more than a dozen students including a Red Cross volunteer and a four-year-old child that April morning after security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters.