WASHINGTON – Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, commended the Obama Administration for taking concrete action against the Gambian government following recent human rights abuses in the country, which include the vicious targeting of LGBT people and a new law that could send some LGBT Gambians to prison for life.
In a statement released today by the White House, the United States has suspended The Gambia’s eligibility for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). A White House spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News the connection between its decision and the human rights situation in The Gambia.
“This decision is an important first step in sending a clear signal to President Yayha Jammeh and his associates about their human rights record, and they cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of LGBT Gambians,” said Jean Freedberg, Deputy Director of HRC Global. “The United States government should not move forward with business as usual with The Gambia when LGBT people are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed because of who they are.”
In November, HRC condemned the passage of draconian new anti-LGBT legislation that could lead to life in prison for some LGBT people in The Gambia. According to multiple news reports, the law has similar language to Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act, which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in February. The Gambian law includes life sentences for those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” or are considered “repeat offenders,” among other charges. According to reports from Amnesty International, LGBT Gambians have been arrested and tortured since the signing of this law.
Earlier this year, President Jammeh said that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
On December 17, HRC presented a petition with over 18,000 signatures to the White House, calling on the Obama Administration to take action against President Jammeh and his associates by barring them from entry to the United States and freezing their assets in the U.S. HRC’s call was accompanied by a video highlighting the abuses of President Jammeh, his anti-LGBT rhetoric, and his personal wealth.
“More can and should be done to hold Jammeh and his associates directly accountable for violating the basic human rights of LGBT Gambians and attacking them for pure political gain,” said Freedberg.