By Sanna Camara
Amnesty International, the world’s leading human rights agency has called on The Gambia government to promote human rights for all, regardless of their sexual orientation, and refrain from making threatening, intimidating, or discriminatory remarks against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights.
In its submission report to the UN Universal Periodic Review published on the 31 march 2014, Amnesty also calls on the government to amend laws which criminalise “consensual same sex sexual conduct and a persons’ right to freedom of expression through clothing.”
The Uniserval Periodic Review (UPR) is a UN human rights mechanism that subjects all countries of the world to a peer review of their human rights situation every four years. The first time the Gambia underwent the process was in 2010, where a number of issues were raised by countries the country faced.
The Gambia’s next UPR session is in November 2014 in Geneva, and again it will face a panel of countries which will review the Government’s human rights report, and those submitted by others including NGOs. Chief among these are the issue f free expression, death penalty, enforced disappearances, gay rights, among others.
Amnesty recalls that “President Jammeh has made numerous public statements attacking LGBTI rights, including at the UN General Assembly in 2013. In February 2014, he stated ‘we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes; if not more aggressively.’”
The report added: “In 2012, 18 men and two women perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, were arrested during a raid on a nightclub. They were charged with attempting to commit “unnatural acts” and “conspiracy to commit felony”. Their pictures and names were displayed in the newspapers. The charges against them were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence.”
This is why the human rights organisation calls on The Gambia government “to promote human rights for all, regardless of their sexual orientation, and refrain from making threatening, intimidating, or discriminatory remarks against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights;
The UPR is a major accountability and monitoring process, and one of its features is that the report of the government must be made public before it is submitted. Also the recommendations that will emerge during the session must also be shared with citizens. According to observers, “This does not happen in the Gambia. The alternative reports of NGOs, and others are also to be shared before and after the exercise.”