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UNHCHR alarmed at LGBT arrests, detentions in Gambia

Today, the Office of the recently appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a Press Release on LGBT in The Gambia. He strongly condemns the harsh new law in The Gambia as well as the violence and arrests targeting gay men and lesbians.  We re-publish the Press Release in its entirety here :

The Gambia: Zeid criticizes harsh legal amendment, violence and arrests targeting gay men and lesbians

 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

GENEVA (20 November 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday criticized a recent amendment to the Criminal Code of The Gambia that creates a broad and vague offence of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life imprisonment. He also expressed alarm at reports of a wave of arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals perceived to be homosexual in The Gambia.

The amendment to the Criminal Code was approved by the National Assembly earlier this year and signed into law by the President on 9 October 2014. It targets, among others, so-called “serial offenders” (meaning individuals with a previous conviction for homosexuality), persons living with HIV, and consensual same-sex partners of persons with disabilities – all of whom could be imprisoned for life. The new law replicates a section of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act denounced by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General and the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

“This law violates fundamental human rights – among them the right to privacy, to freedom from discrimination and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. It adds to the stigma and abuses that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people already face in The Gambia,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

“Governments have a duty to protect people from prejudice, not to add to it. Public hostility towards gay and lesbian people can never justify violating their fundamental human rights. Instead, it requires increased measures to protect them against human rights violations. This has been reaffirmed by UN human rights mechanisms and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” he added.

Since the new law was approved, representatives of The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency have been reportedly conducting door-to-door enquiries to identify, arrest and detain individuals believed to be homosexual, and some of those detained have allegedly also been subjected to violent attacks and mistreatment. In other countries, similar laws have also led to an increase in violence against members of the LGBT community, including mob attacks.

“I call on The Gambia to fulfill its international obligations to promote and protect the human rights of all persons without discrimination, to repeal all provisions of the Criminal Code that criminalize relations between consenting adults and to put in place an immediate moratorium on arrests on the basis of such laws,” the High Commissioner said.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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