President Adama Barrow of The Gambia has pardoned over 170 prisoners as part of the country’s 52nd Independence Day celebration which coincided with his historic swearing-in ceremony last Saturday.
Local media reports that prison authorities began releasing inmates from the dreaded Mile II prisons facility on Saturday. 74 prisoners were let out with 100 others supposed to be released subsequently.
The release comes barely a week after the Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, visited the prison to assess the situation of inmates. The facility is reputed to be where former leader, Yahya Jammeh, detained most opponents and media personnel during his over two decades rule.
Rights campaigners have deplored the conditions of Gambian jails which under Jammeh could hardly be accessed. Jammeh has in the past also pardoned prisoners even though some of his opponents died in custody.
Barrow’s government is looking to reverse the human rights record of the country – which was tainted by Jammeh’s highhandedness. The current action by Barrow is expected to be followed by reforms in country’s prisons.
Jammeh was defeated in presidential elections last December by the then opposition coalition candidate, Adama Barrow. He initially accepted the results before backtracking – a decision that put the country on edge as his mandate run out on January 19.
Barrow was aided by the regional bloc, ECOWAS, to take his first oath in Senegal after which regional forces were deployed to oust Jammeh. The latter agreed to fly into exile after mediation by his Guinean and Mauritanian peers. He is currently in Equatorial Guinea.