Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, joined 13 other human rights groups in urging the Obama Administration to take additional action against Gambian leaders following the regime’s ongoing crackdown and persecution of LGBT citizens, and called on it to demand that the Gambian government provide more information about the health and safety of individuals who have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“The United States cannot turn a blind eye to the the horrific human rights abuses being inflicted on Gambians by President Yahya Jammeh’s regime,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “As we speak, the lives of LGBT Gambians who have been arrested and secretly detained are at risk, and there are no indications that Jammeh’s brutal crackdown on LGBT people and others is slowing down. While removing The Gambia’s eligibility for the AGOA trade agreement was an important first step, we must increase the pressure on the Gambian government and send an even stronger message to the regime that the United States will hold them accountable for their actions.”
In their letter to President Obama, the organizations state “It is not too late for the United States to send President Jammeh and his regime a clear and unequivocal message: human rights violations will not be tolerated, and the U.S. government will respond with actions, as well as with strong condemnation.” The letter also calls on the U.S. government to ask The Gambia to account for those individuals it is holding, and to either charge or release them; to bar President Jammeh and his associates from entry to the U.S.; and to consider freezing his assets currently held in the U.S.
“It is significant that so many respected human rights organizations have come together on protecting the lives of LGBT Gambians and others being persecuted,” said Cobb.
In November, HRC condemned the passage of draconian new anti-LGBT legislation that could lead to life in prison for LGBT people in The Gambia. The 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 and others, LGBT Gambians have been arrested and tortured since the signing of this law.
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. HRC’s call was accompanied by a video highlighting the abuses of President Jammeh and his anti-LGBT rhetoric.
In a December 23 statement, the White House announced that it 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 that suspension and the human rights situation in The Gambia. Nonetheless, President Jammeh continues to act with impunity, imprisoning an unknown number of LGBT people without charge, while spreading fear throughout his country. He appears to be following up on his declaration last year that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
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