UK introduces sanctions against Gambian former president and first lady over human rights abuses

Travel bans and asset freezes announced for 'egregious' violations, including torture and murder

Zineb Jammeh, wife of President and leader of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party, Yahya Jammeh, attends a presidential campaign meeting 20 September 2006 in Serekunda. Gambians go to the polls 22 September 2006 in a presidential vote expected to give incumbent Yahya Jammeh a third term as head of this tiny West African state, in the face of a weak opposition. 
Zineb Jammeh, épouse du président sortant Yahyah Jammeh, président de l'Alliance Patriotique pour la Réorientation et la Construction (APRC) au pouvoir, assiste à un meeting le 20 septembre 2006 à Serekunda, avant les élections présidentielles du 22 septembre. 
AFP PHOTO SEYLLOU (Photo by SEYLLOU DIALLO / AFP)

The UK has announced sanctions against the former president of The Gambia and his wife for human rights breaches.

The pair were among 10 people and one entity to face travel bans and asset freezes over violations including torture and murder.

Others named in the sanctions were security figures and officials from Russia, Venezuela and Pakistan.

The UK was acting alongside the US, which also announced new designations under its human rights regime on Friday.

“Today’s sanctions send a clear message to human rights violators that the UK will hold them to account," UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.

“The UK and our allies are shining a light on the severe and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by those sanctioned today.

"Global Britain will stand up for democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a force for good in the world.”

The sanctions, announced on International Human Rights Day, are part of the UK’s global human rights regime.

Its policies give the UK power to stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the country, channelling money through its banks or profiting from its economy.

Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has been pinpointed for killings of protesters and minority groups.

During his rule from 1996 to 2017, he was accused of widespread abuses including killings and forced disappearances, as well as stealing millions of dollars from the country’s finances to fund a luxurious lifestyle.

Incumbent Gambian President Yahya Jammeh listens to one of his aides in Banjul on November 29, 2016, during the closing rally of the electoral campaign of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). - More than 880,000 voters are expected to cast their ballots when the west African country goes to the polls on December 1, 2016. Jammeh has won four elections with his ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, following a 2002 constitutional amendment lifting term limits. Rights bodies and media watchdogs including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accuse Jammeh of cultivating a "pervasive climate of fear" and of crushing dissent against his regime, one cause of the mass exodus of Gambian youths to Europe. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

He went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after losing the presidential election, which he refused to accept. The Gambia’s neighbours sent in troops to force him out.

His wife, Zineb Jammeh, was accused of corruption and assisting his regime.

Sanctions have also been placed on Yankuba Badjie, the former director general of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency.

When the US imposed sanctions against Mr Jammeh in September, the US Treasury said it believed he "used a number of corrupt schemes to plunder The Gambia's state coffers or otherwise siphon off state funds for his personal gain".

"Zineb is also believed to be in charge of most of Jammeh's assets around the world," it said.

The Treasury said she used a charitable foundation as a cover to illicitly transfer funds to her husband.

In Russia, the sanctions are against three people and the Terek Special Rapid Response Unit for alleged torture and other human rights breaches against LGBT people in Chechnya.

In Venezuela, senior security figures responsible for human rights violations in Nicolas Maduro’s regime were designated.

The Foreign Office said the designations were a "timely reminder of the crisis in Venezuela, coming soon after the illegitimate Maduro regime organised deeply flawed National Assembly elections on 6 December".

In Pakistan, Ahmad Anwar Khan, former senior superintendent of police in Malir district, is facing sanctions for historic human rights.

This year, the UK imposed sanctions on 49 people behind "notorious" human rights abuses.

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