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Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, A/HRC/29/37/Add.2, 11 May 2015: Gambia

II.       General background

Human rights overview

10.     The country is characterized by disregard for the rule of law, infringements of civil liberties and the existence of a repressive State apparatus. State institutions are weak and under the influence and control of the executive power, namely the President. Transparency and accountability in public affairs are scarce and there are no independent institutions or processes to channel alternative voices or social demands. The activities of civil society organizations are closely monitored by the executive. The Special Rapporteur encountered many manifestations of fear and frustration in civil society, with reports of rampant State-led violence, persecution of the media and critical voices, and impunity for human rights violations. Human rights concerns also include interference with the independence of the judiciary, denial of due process, prolonged pretrial and incommunicado detention, poor prison conditions, persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, and tolerance of the practice of female genital mutilation. It appears that, at best, the State, for strategic reasons, occasionally pays lip service to human rights, but otherwise pursues the narrow interests of power and political survival. Human rights protection is largely an illusion.

III.     Legal framework

12.     Moreover, in recent years, the Government has adopted legislation that infringes international human rights standards, such as (a) the Indemnity Act of 2001, which gives the President the power to indemnify law enforcement officials for abuse of force during situations of public emergency, unlawful assembly, public disturbance or rioting; (b) the Information and Communication Act of 2013, which creates several new offences and imposes harsher penalties for online activity deemed critical of the Government; (c) a series of amendments to the Criminal Code, which broaden definitions and impose harsher penalties for various offences, such as sedition, libel, public disorder, or giving false information; and (d) the Criminal Code (Amendment) Acts of 2005 and of 2014, sections 144 and 147, on “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature… and any other homosexual act” and on “aggravated homosexuality”, which criminalize sexual activities between consenting adults.

IV.      Cooperation with international and regional organizations

14.     The country’s cooperation with the United Nations human rights machinery has been limited. This was the first-ever visit to the country by a special procedures mandate holder of the Human Rights Council. Of the 14 communications sent by special procedures mandate holders since 2007, none has received a substantive response from the Government. The Gambia has submitted overdue reports to some treaty bodies and has failed to submit reports to others. The country has been reviewed twice under the universal periodic review, in 2010 and 2014. The Government has failed to implement many of the recommendations of the first review, and rejected 78 of the 171 recommendations of the second review, including on the maintenance of the moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty, and on cooperation with special procedures.[8]

V.        Main challenges encountered

G.      Groups at risk

78.     The Special Rapporteur received concerning reports about hate speech, persecution and violence against LGBT persons in the Gambia. Numerous reports have emerged of threatening and inflammatory public speeches by Mr. Jammeh against homosexuals. Such messages include threats to decapitate any homosexuals found in the country, depictions of gay people as “vermin” who should be treated worse than mosquitoes, threats to kill anyone who seeks asylum who claims to be persecuted for his or her sexual orientation, and assessments of homosexuals as more deadly than all natural disasters put together.

79.     He is also concerned about the 2014 amendment to the Criminal Code on “aggravated homosexuality”, which carries punishments of up to life in prison and contributes to the existing climate of hostility against LGBT persons. The approval of the amendment was followed by rounds of arrests, prosecutions and attacks, and humiliation and even torture of persons, because of their presumed sexual orientation. In addition, some were detained in the security wing of Mile 2 Prison. The Special Rapporteur warns that hate speech and discriminatory legislation risks inciting societal misconceptions and violence against LGBT persons, putting them at great risk of attacks, humiliation and even murder, and recalls the responsibility of States to respect the human rights of LGBT persons and to avoid discrimination, as well as to prevent and punish violence and abuses against them by third parties.

VII.    Recommendations

A.      To the Government of the Gambia


88.     Repeal or amend all national legislation that is incompatible with international human rights standards, including:

(a)     The Criminal Code (Amendment) Acts of 2005 and of 2014, sections 144 and 147, on “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature… and any other homosexual act” and “aggravated homosexuality”;

Death penalty

97.     Guarantee to LGBT persons the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights. Prevent, punish and publicly condemn all violations against them.

Link to full text of the report: Report-SREJE-Gambia-2015-eng

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 8. The Gambia also rejected recommendations concerning the ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the non-criminalization of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression.