Brussels-1Gambian civil society members briefed officials of the European Union on continued tyranny in the Gambia. This is contained in a report issued by the Coalition for Change – The Gambia, UK Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia, and Human Rights for All.

Below is the report:

A workshop on human rights in London and discussions with officials of the European Union in Brussels recently highlighted a 10-day flurry of activities by Gambian diaspora-based civil society organizations.

Representatives from Coalition for Change – The Gambia (CCG), UK Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia (CHRG), and Human Rights for All (HUMRA) among others, participated in the workshop organized by Amnesty International from February 10-12, 2014 aimed at building their capacity to engage with the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms.

The event was conducted ahead of the forthcoming second cycle of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group slated for October 27 – November 7, 2014. The Gambia is one of 14 countries to be reviewed during this 20th session. As well as considering the current human rights situation, this second cycle is also supposed to assess the state of implementation of recommendations accepted by The Gambia during its first review (August 2010).

Participants reviewed the progress made by Gambian authorities in implementing the recommendations made during the 2010 UPR review cycle and discussed ways to coordinate the drafting of UPR submissions across different NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Areas examined included: extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and unlawful arrests; independence of the judiciary; prison conditions; freedom of expression; the death penalty; and women and children’s rights.

Following the workshop, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh and Alieu Badara Ceesay of CCG and CHRG respectively, visited Brussels and held a series of meetings with European Union (EU) officials and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the deplorable human rights situation in The Gambia. A statement delivered on behalf of several Gambian civil society organizations urged the European Union to impose tough measures against Yahya Jammeh’s government in view of the persistent and rapid deterioration of basic human rights under the regime.

The activists pointed to President Jammeh’s continued disregard of The Gambia’s obligations even in the face of an unprecedented global spotlight and despite the EU’s attempts to engage his administration. It is long overdue, they argued, for the international community to take decisive action to end repressive rule in The Gambia. Targeted sanctions – visa bans, asset freezes – and the disbursement of development aid strictly through third parties (independent development agencies or NGOs) were among the recommended measures.

Dr. Janneh and Ceesay expressed concern about recent reports that the EU was actually doubling aid to the Gambian regime instead of taking punitive measures. EU officials explained that the country qualified for 150 million Euros in development aid for the period 2014-2020 on the basis of a preset formula. Out of that total, only 20-25 million Euros will potentially be available for disbursement for 2014 and 2015 if the parties come to agreement during Article 8 Dialogue. Human rights remains a core element of engagements with the Gambia Government, according to EU officials. A January / February, 2014 meeting between the parties failed to materialize for “reasons of mutually busy agendas” and another one is being considered for March 2014.

Key MEPs were also briefed on the human rights situation in The Gambia, and both pledged to shed light on the country through the European Parliament and to work closely with human rights organizations in addressing violations by the regime led by Yahya Jammeh.

As a follow-up, plans are already being made to mobilize groups in preparation for the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit set to take place in Brussels from April 2-4, 2014. Gambian civil society groups are expected to coordinate advocacy activities with international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International before and during this high-level event.

[AI, however, does not campaign for sanctions as a matter of principle].

Ends

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