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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and although government generally respected the right of peaceful association, it placed minor administrative limitations on the right of peaceful assembly.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

By law the Gambia Police Force must grant a permit for all public meetings and gatherings of large groups. The inspector general of police has the authority to approve or disapprove permits and is required to communicate his decision to the requester in writing. Police generally approved requests unless there was concern regarding the peaceful nature of a proposed gathering or protest. Following training from the governments of France, Spain, and Germany, security forces’ capability to employ effective, nonviolent crowd-control techniques improved.

In the days after the December 4 presidential election, demonstrators favoring United Democratic Party (UDP) opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe took to the streets. After a crowd outside Darboe’s residence began interfering with traffic and damaging passing vehicles, police moved to disperse the protesters with tear gas. After compelling the crowd to leave the area, riot police continued to deploy tear gas against fleeing protesters, then returned to the area outside Darboe’s residence to deploy more tear gas. UDP representatives claimed the crowd outside Darboe’s residence had already dispersed when police returned; authorities stated additional tear gas was necessary to disperse an unlawful assembly. Independent observers asserted police use of tear gas at Darboe’s residence was excessive and called for police to hold accountable those who deployed the additional tear gas.

In January 2020 police arrested 137 demonstrators during a violent protest by the Three Years Jotna Movement. Protesters called for the president to honor his commitment to step down after three years, and other protesters affiliated with the movement called for the president to be forcibly removed from office. Police used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters, and some protesters and police sustained serious injuries. Police charged protest organizers with unlawful assembly and rioting. In February 2020 authorities released the organizers on bail. On February 10, the High Court dismissed the case against them after authorities withdrew the charges. Police re-arrested the group when they left the court building, purportedly based on new information. Ministry of Justice officials subsequently dropped a second set of charges.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future