Gambia's Adama Barrow orders release of 171 prisoners

President Adama Barrow (File: AFP)
President Adama Barrow (File: AFP)

Banjul - As The Gambia enters a new era of democracy, President Adama Barrow has reiterated his commitment to ending human rights abuses in the country and ordered the release of all prisoners detained without trial.

"Orders have already been given for all those detained without trial to be released," he said during his official inauguration ceremony at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, a town 20 km from the capital Banjul, on Saturday.

As a result, a total of 171 inmates in the tiny West African nation's notorious 2 Mile Prison were set free. They were all detained without trial sometime during former President Yahya Jammeh's 22-year rule.

Jammeh's tenure was marred by clampdowns on dissenting views, enforced disappearances and detention without trial, creating a climate of fear.  Hundreds of people were jailed for their political views and thousands of others were forced to flee the country.

"This is a day of victory for Gambian politicians who for decades faced arrest and intimidation from the security services," said Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque, reporting from the capital, Banjul.

"Among Gambia's new cabinet are men and women that have spent time in the Mile 2 prison," he said.

"Many politicians have either died in custody or gone missing after being taken to jail."

Jammeh clung to power, creating a political crisis that forced Barrow to be inaugurated in January in Senegal, which surrounds Gambia except for its coast.

READ MORE: Profile - Adama Barrow, The Gambia's new president

International pressure, including the threat of a regional military intervention, led Jammeh on January 21 to finally accept his election loss and fly into exile in Equatorial Guinea. Hundreds of thousands welcomed Barrow's return to Gambia days later.

Barrow has pledged to reverse Jammeh's repressive policies and promised to keep The Gambia in the International Criminal Court, rejoin the Commonwealth, and free political prisoners.

At Saturday's ceremony, Barrow also said that his government will undertake key constitutional and legal reforms and announced that he would highlight them in his first address to the National Assembly.

"It (the legal reform) intends to enforce constitutional provisions that are entrenched to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens," he said.

OPINION: Big hopes for the New Gambia

Barrow said the Attorney General and Minister of Justice will receive information regarding all those who went missing. "An appropriate commission would be established to conduct inquiries into their disappearances," he said.

Barrow has also promised to establish a truth and reconciliation commission.

"The release of Mile 2 prisoners, many of whom have been victim of abuse from security forces, is the first step to redress the miscarriages of justice in the Gambia," said Al Jazeera's Haque.

"It's a moment, many in Gambia have been waiting for."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
How has the delay in schools' opening impacted your life?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It's a disaster! We're struggling to manage work and kids at home
41% - 1767 votes
It's a struggle, but we learnt lessons from last year's closures
20% - 842 votes
It's a relief, this second wave is bad and kids need to be at home
39% - 1696 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.31
(-0.64)
ZAR/GBP
20.85
(-0.17)
ZAR/EUR
18.56
(-0.41)
ZAR/AUD
11.76
(-0.14)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(-0.55)
Gold
1853.70
(-0.09)
Silver
25.29
(-0.13)
Platinum
1087.00
(-0.59)
Brent Crude
55.72
(+0.78)
Palladium
2313.01
(+0.11)
All Share
64013.57
(-0.85)
Top 40
58879.65
(-0.89)
Financial 15
11591.47
(+0.36)
Industrial 25
87575.95
(-1.45)
Resource 10
61918.31
(-0.54)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo