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City of Banjul
Sunday, February 28, 2021

Gambia accused of ‘state-sponsored’ homophobic arrests

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The human rights organisation said the country’s spy agency and presidential guard had forced confessions from five men, including a 17-year-old, and three women, since November 7. 

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 “These arrests took place amid an intensifying climate of fear for those perceived to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy director for West Africa said in a statement.

“This unacceptable crackdown reveals the scale of state-sponsored homophobia in Gambia.”

The women were released last week, said Amnesty, but the men are being held at the National Intelligence Agency headquarters in the capital Banjul. They were told they were under investigation for “homosexuality”, Amnesty said, adding that they had not been charged and had been denied a lawyer.

The organisation said the NIA is reportedly collating a list of names for future arrests and several targets escaped after being tipped off by relatives. 

The Gambia’s treatment of homosexuals has long drawn criticism from international observers, who accuse the country of homophobia. Parliament passed a Bill on August 25 to introduce a punishment of life in prison for “aggravated homosexuality” targeting “repeat offenders” and people living with HIV. President Yahya Jammeh has repeatedly denounced homosexuality. 

The NIA could not be reached for immediate comment on the matter.

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