Thursday, November 20, 2014

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



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 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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Gambia: UN human rights team prevented from completing torture and killing investigations



The United Nations Special Rapporteurs Christof Heyns and Juan Méndez have been prevented from completing a torture and killing investigation during the first visit ever to The Gambia by experts of the independent fact-finding mechanism of the Human Rights Council Special Procedures.

The two UN human rights experts carried out an official mission* to the country to examine the current level of protection of the right to life in law and in practice, and assess the situation and identify challenges regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in The Gambia, among other things. 

In a remarkable and encouraging step, the Gambian Government invited the two UN Special Rapporteurs earlier this year to conduct a joint visit from 3 to 7 November 2014.

Unfortunately, and despite a written agreement accepting the Terms of Reference of the two mandates, once the investigators arrived, the Government denied them access to certain sections of the first prison the two mandate holders attempted to visit. They offered instead a guided tour to parts of the prison, informing that under no circumstances would they be allowed to visit the Security Wing, where inter alia the death row prisoners are held.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Journalist imprisoned after criticizing president

CPJ-A journalist in Sierra Leone has been imprisoned after criticizing President Ernest Bai Koroma's handling of the Ebola outbreak, according to news reports and local journalists. David Tam Baryoh was arrested on Monday.
Baryoh, host of the popular weekly "Monologue" radio program aired on the independent Citizen FM, was arrested in his office by police who did not have a warrant, according to news reports and local journalists. Baryoh was initially detained overnight at the Police Criminal Investigation headquarters in the capital, Freetown, where he met briefly with his lawyer, local journalists told CPJ. He was not allowed to see his wife.
Local journalists said they believed Baryoh's arrest to be in connection with the November 1 "Monologue" show, which was taken off the air during its live broadcast, Kelvin Lewis, president of Sierra Leone's Association of Journalists, told CPJ. In that show, Baryoh interviewed an opposition party spokesman who criticized Koroma and his government's handling of the Ebola outbreak, local journalists said. Baryoh and the party spokesman also criticized Koroma's intention to run for a third term in office, according to news reports. During the program, Baryoh also interviewed Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana, whose relationship with Koroma has soured, according to local press reports.

Friday, September 19, 2014

GAMCOTRAP joins one billion rising revolution






Febraury 14 globally, is Valentine day; a day when lovers renew their love, commitment but women and men in The Gambia have been rising together with the rest of the world to end violence against women, thanks to GAMCOTRAP.
GAMCOTRAP, a women’s right NGO, who have over the years been very active and effective in the promotion of women and children’s rights, particularly those relate to female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and other discriminatory practices joined the global energy to strike, dance and rise against Violence against women calling for an end to FGM, early marriage and other gender discriminatory practices affecting women and men in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

V-day is founded by Eve Ensler, a journalist and writer for 15 years and is celebrated on Valentine’s Day globally to bring focus to all forms of violence such as rape, early marriage, battering, Female Genital Mutilation, amongst others and to contribute to the global efforts to end these atrocities in every country and community.

In preparation of the One Billion Rising 2015, GAMCOTRAP held a press briefing to update the public on rising to end violence against women in the Gambia. The executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray said:
 “We rise, we dance, we demand for justice but we now want to change in perceptions and attitudes to dismantle patriarchy and change institutions to take responsibility to end violence against women. We have the responsibility to protect women and girls from all forms of harmful traditional practices, be it female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages, and break the silence over sexual abuse in the home, school, office or any other public place

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In attempts to contain Ebola, Liberia censors its press

      Security forces guard a checkpoint in an area of Monrovia that was in
 quarantine for several days as part of government efforts to try to contain Ebola
 in Liberia. (Reuters

With the Ebola epidemic predicted to get worse, the Liberian government has taken action to silence news outlets critical of its handling of the health crisis which, according to Liberia's Information Ministry, has claimed more than 1,000 lives in the country since March.
Publishers have been harassed and forced to cease printing, and journalists were initially not exempt from a curfew, making it difficult for them to work, according to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).
During this challenging time, the action by authorities is serving only to strengthen "the distrust" between the government and the media, PUL stated in a letter to Justice Minister Christiana Tah on September 4. In the letter, union president Abdullai Kamara cited several accounts of harassment and intimidation, including cases involving Women VoicesFrontPageAfrica, and the National Chronicle, which have all come under pressure in recent weeks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Anti-FGM Crusaders to Penetrate Deep into NRR



Dr Touray

Residents of North Bank Region will have their share of the intensifying sensitisation campaign that seeks to eliminate the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia.
Gamcotrap, a women’s rights advocacy is targeting one hundred and eighteen communities in Upper Badibou and Sabach Sanjal Districts. The three year project is funded by the UNFPA/Gambia Government Country Programme 2012 – 2016 entitled: “Accelerating the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the Gambia”.   
In a press released Gamcotrap said they have visited the region before and the governor of the Region, Mr. Lamin Quin Jammeh was briefed by the executive director of GAMCOTRAP. ‘Dr. Isatou Touray informed him of the project objectives which aim at raising awareness and empowering communities to end FGM and protect their girls and women. The governor welcomed the GAMCOTRAP team to his region and stated his support to end FGM”
According to the released, governor Jammeh said the eradication of FGM is part of the development process and should be a concern to everyone, urging GAMCOTRAP not to relent in the progress being made. “FGM, early marriage and women’s rights are three important issues that people should be concern about. “We are together in spirit and we are with you in your efforts to protect the girl children from FGM.” He said.
Gamcotrap stated: “One hundred and fifty (150) Community and Women leaders have been the target of the launching the GAMCOTRAP grassroots FGM activities in Upper Badibou and Sabach Sanjal.”
According to Dr Touray it was a privilege to launch the project in three different venues: Illiassa and Farafenni in the Upper Badibou district and Ngayen Sanjal in the Sabach Sanjal district. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gambia Government postpones UN experts visit





The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and summary, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns, today expressed their deep disappointment with the unilateral decision taken by the Government of The Gambia to postpone their country visit, scheduled to start today and take place until 18 August 2014.

In a news release issued by United Nations Human Right the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that: “We find it extremely worrying that a major undertaking dealing with issues such as unlawful killings and torture can be cancelled without explanation, just as it is about to start.”

The experts said, “The Government’s decision to postpone our visit casts doubt on The Gambia's willingness to engage with the United Nations' special procedures and to respond to the legitimate expectations of the human rights constituency in Gambian civil society.