The Chair of the delegation, Mr David Martin, has stated:
"The European Parliament had expressed its concerns about the human rights situation in The Gambia in its urgency resolution of May 2016. The resolution was triggered by the Gambian government's violent repression of peaceful protests in April 2016, by the arrest and torture of protestors, including leading figures from the main opposition party UDP, by the sudden death of the Executive Secretary of the UDP Youth Wing Solo Sandeng in custody and last but not least by serious concern about the likelihood of free and fair presidential elections in December 2016.
The Gambia is facing a presidential election in December 2016. Against this background, the purpose of the visit was to gather information, to influence the government to improve its human rights record and to support human rights campaigners.
The delegation visited two EU-funded projects on empowerment of women and children's rights, and had meetings with representatives of the National Assembly including the minority leader, with the Independent Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman, with women's associations and with opposition parties.
The delegation appreciated the hospitality and openness of its Gambian counterparts. Regrettably, though, government representatives were not available. The delegation also acknowledged the significant progress made in certain areas like the ban on FGM and the envisaged ban on child marriage and were briefed on technical preparations for the elections.
In order to respect international democratic norms, the Gambian government is called upon to release all protestors arrested in connection with the April protests including the UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, to grant access to state media to opposition parties, to allow the United Nations Special Elections Team access to the country and to conduct an independent investigation into Solo Sandeng's death.
It has become clear that important provisions of the Gambian constitution are still to be fully implemented, especially those on freedom of speech and prisoners' rights. So the delegation also encourages the Gambian government to continue with its plans to establish a National Human Rights Commission.
We are interested in having good relations with The Gambia. If however the human rights situation does not improve or should even deteriorate, the European Parliament has indicated that there would be a need to consider targeted sanctions on officials responsible for serious human rights abuses."
ADDENDUM: After the release of this press statement the EP delegation was in the end able to have a meeting with the Gambian Minister of Presidential Affairs and the Gambian Minister of Justice at short notice. During this meeting the EP delegation raised many of the points mentioned in the press statement of 22 September.