Today HRC joined the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to urge the Obama Administration to take additional action against Gambian leaders as the regime continues to persecute LGBT citizens, calling on the White House to condemn the horrific human rights abuses taking place across The Gambia.
In their letter to Susan Rice, HRC President Chad Griffin and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy wrote, “As the human rights situation in The Gambia grows more dire, we strongly urge you to consider the steps we have recommended in order to protect the country’s highly vulnerable and already marginalized groups, including LGBT people, who undoubtedly remain under serious threat.” The letter calls on the White House to release a statement condemning the oppression of marginalized groups in The Gambia and bar President Jammeh and his associates from entry into the United States.
At a political rally earlier this month, President Jammeh threatened to slit the throats of men who wanted to marry other men in his country. This type of rhetoric is not uncommon in The Gambia, contributing to an already severeepidemic of homophobic violence in the country.
“As President Jammeh continues his campaign of gruesome threats and disturbing acts targeting LGBT Gambians, the United States must speak out and take action in support of basic human rights,” said Griffin. “Staying silent about these acts and maintaining the status quo is not an option. President Jammeh and his agents should not be living, shopping, and vacationing in the United States while threatening to slit the throats of gay men at home.”
“With his irresponsible comments, President Jammeh hasn’t just threatened his own people with violence, “said Kennedy. “He has also put LGBT Gambians in real danger by licensing those who would do them harm. The United States must lead the way in condemning President Jammeh’s reprehensible statements.”
In November, HRC condemned passage of a draconian new law that puts Gambians in prison for life because of their sexual orientation. The law includes life sentences for those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” or are considered “repeat offenders.” According to reports from Amnesty International and other organizations, 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 Opportunity Act (AGOA). A White House spokesperson confirmed the connection between that suspension and the human rights situation in The Gambia to BuzzFeed News. Nonetheless, President Jammeh continues to act with impunity, spreading terror across the country. Last year, President Jammeh declared that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”