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UN independent experts on torture and summary executions to conduct first visit to Gambia

GENEVA (30 October 2014) – Two United Nations Special Rapporteurs will carry out the first official visit ever to the Gambia by experts of the Human Rights Council Special Procedures*.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, will visit the country from 3 to 7 November 2014, at the invitation of the Government.

“I will examine the current level of protection of the right to life in law and in practice in the country,” Mr. Heyns said. “An essential aspect of my visit will focus on the current situation of violence, in particular the level of unlawful killings and death threats by any actor, as well as the efforts to prevent them and ensure justice and accountability in such cases.”

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions will further look at the legal framework and existing practices in connection to the imposition of the death penalty and assess its level of conformity with international law.

“During the mission, I will assess the situation and identify challenges regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the Gambia,” the Special Rapporteur on torture said. “I will look into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, the conditions of detention in all places where persons are deprived of their liberties, including the conditions of persons on death row.”

Mr. Méndez will also examine the national legislation and its accordance with international law, and assess the State’s compliance with the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of torture, provide access to legal assistance upon arrest, and guarantee redress and reparation to victims.

The Special Rapporteurs look forward to assist the Gambian Government in coping with some of the challenges it faces regarding these issues and in finding solutions that uphold the rule of law, promote accountability for human rights violations and fulfil the right of reparation for victims.

During the five-day visit, the human rights experts will meet with high-ranking officials, as well as various UN agencies, international and local non-governmental organizations, and civil society representatives in the Gambia. The independent experts will also visit places of detention, including prisons, police stations, interrogation centres, juvenile and women’s facilities and psychiatric institutions.

Mr. Heyns and Mr. Méndez will present their final reports on the visit to the Gambia to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015.

The Special Rapporteurs will hold a press conference on 7 November 2014, at 1:30 pm, at the Conference Room of the Ocean Bay Hotel & Resort, Cape Point, Bakau, Gambia, to share their preliminary findings with the media.

(*) The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as ‘Special Procedures’, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights System. ‘Special Procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 38 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 73 mandate holders.

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – The Gambia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/GMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Banjul: Vivian Huijgen (+220 743 61 82 (mobile, until 7 November ) / vhuijgen@ohchr.org)

Summary executions: Brenda Vukovic (+41 79 109 6875 / bvukovic@ohchr.org / eje@ohchr.org) or log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

Torture: Stephanie Selg (0041 79 109 6874/ sselg@ohchr.org / sr-torture@ohchr.org) or log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en