By Omar Bah
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabián Salvioli has urged the Gambia Government to consider decriminalising same-sex relations.
The UN rapporteur argued that a law that criminalises sexual relations between people of the same sex leads to discrimination.
The Gambia Government has categorically stated in its submission to the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group that it has no plan to decriminalise same-sex marriage, LGBTQ.
However, the UN rapporteur said The Gambia, as a signatory to human rights treaties and bodies at the UN, is obliged to adhere to the provisions in those treaties.
“So as a result of that, if the decriminalisation continues, The Gambia has to appear before these bodies to receive very clear observations from the international community in that regard,” he told journalists at a press conference yesterday.
He also urged Gambian authorities to harmonise and domesticate all ratified international legal instruments.
He said Gambian authorities should ensure that the constitutional review process is undertaken in full compliance with international human rights standards.
Fabian also recommended government to abolish the death penalty and investigate and prosecute members of paramilitary groups implicated in human rights violations.
He said TRRC amnesties or pardons should not be recommended or granted, as prescribed by international law.
“The TRRC should adopt all necessary measures to promote the universal registration of victims in order to know the full extent of victimhood in the country and provide them with reparation,” he added.
“The release of Junglers after confessing to the commission of gross human rights violations, shocked Gambian society and has eroded people’s trust in the TRRC process and in the government’s will to conduct an effective transitional justice. Moreover, people expressed fear of having Junglers walking freely along Gambian streets. For victims, this represented a form of re-victimisation,” he noted.
He criticised the withdrawal of charges against several officials of the NIA, the release of a soldier accused of killing a female soldier in 2011, the President’s announcement of discontinuing prosecution of police officers responsible for the death of demonstrators in Faraba.
“Over the course of my visit, virtually every person with whom I met has strongly criticised and expressed concern about this decision. It is concerning to see that decisions of this type can erode the government’s political capital, risking the country’s incipient but prosperous transitional justice process.”
The UN rapporteur said CSOs and other international organisations have raised issues of lack of progress in the area of accountability for past abuses.
“The aforementioned actors have also expressed concern at the perceived attempt by the government, including the TRRC, to force reconciliation and forgiveness and to prioritise this aspect over accountability. Several social actors have indicated how they felt that Gambians are being pressured to do so, despite their convictions, including their traditional and religious beliefs to the contrary.
“As noted by multiple stakeholders during the visit, individuals accused of perpetrating or enabling human rights abuses continue to work within civil and security services and well-known high-level enablers or perpetrators of the former regime were appointed as ministerial upper ranks, advisors, ambassadors and in other government positions,” he said.
He said the country’s security sector institutions are still formally governed by the regulations of the previous regime.
He noted concerns have been raised about certain provisions in the draft constitution which are not in line with international standards, for example those in relation to restrictions to the right to life. He said the draft doesn’t abolish the death penalty, despite the country’s commitment to state party to the Second Optional Protocol.