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.