Baerbel Kofler (SPD), the new commissioner for human rights and humanitarian aid of the German government (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung fuer Menschenrechtspolitik und Humanitaere Hilfe), introduces herself during a press conference at the foreign office in Berlin, Germany, 24 February 2016. The 48-year-old member of the German parliament was named successor to Christoph Straesser, who had unexpectedly stepped down from the position earlier this week. PHOTO: BERND VON JUTRCZENKA/DPA

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (24 August): “I am deeply concerned by reports from the Gambia. Opposition politician Ebrima Solo Kurumah is said to have died last Saturday, shortly after undergoing surgery at a hospital to which he had been transferred from prison. He had allegedly earlier been refused medical aid in prison.

Ebrima Solo Kurumah was arrested on 9 May together with 35 other members of the UDP opposition party for reasons unknown. 20 of those arrested were later released. Charges were brought against the other 16, including Kurumah.

In July, 19 other UDP members were sentenced to three years in prison. They had protested in April against the death in police custody of a leading member of the UDP, and had called for electoral reform. 

The rights guaranteed by the Gambian constitution, such as freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly, must be upheld at all times. The deployment of the security forces against demonstrators must not violate the principle of proportionality.

I call on the Gambian Government to investigate the circumstances leading to the deaths of opposition members Ebrima Solo Kurumah and Solo Sandeng quickly and thoroughly. I equally call on the Gambian Government to investigate the accusations of torture in prisons and to ensure that all prisoners are treated humanely.”

Background information:

Ebrima Solo Kurumah was arrested on 9 May together with 35 other members of the Gambian UDP opposition party in circumstances that remain unclear. Charges were brought against 16 of these people, including Ebrima Solo Kurumah and a young woman with a four-month-old baby.

Leading members of the Gambian UDP had previously demonstrated, on 16 April, against the arrest of Solo Sandeng and other opposition members two days earlier.

Solo Sandeng had held a peaceful protest for electoral reform with members of the UDP, and was arrested for his actions by the Gambian security forces. He died in jail shortly thereafter. In July, the Gambian Government announced that an inquiry would be held into the death of Sandeng, but no results have yet been produced.

In July, 19 of the opposition members arrested on 16 April were sentenced to three years in prison for offences including unlawful assembly, disturbance of the peace and conspiracy. 11 of the demonstrators of 14 April were also convicted of these offences and sentenced to three years in jail.

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