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HRC calls out anti-gay Gambian President Jammeh

WASHINGTON, DC -- This week the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) ran a full-page advertisement in the local Potomac, MD newspaper The Gazette highlighting the horrific anti-LGBT human rights abuses of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh owns a home in the suburban community that is reported to be worth $3.5 million.

“The citizens of Potomac should know that an individual with a truly horrific anti-LGBT human rights record lives just a few doors down from them,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.  “Those who target LGBT people, throw them in prison, and subject them to torture should not be welcome in our towns, our neighborhoods, or our country.  We hope that this ad raises awareness about President Jammeh and the state of human rights in The Gambia.”

In November, HRC condemned the passage of draconian new anti-LGBT legislation that could lead to life in prison for LGBT people in The Gambia.  Immediately after signing this into law, Jammeh’s security forces began detaining those they suspected of being LGBT, and torturing them to provide “names” of others.  Three LGBT people now await trial for “committing unnatural offenses,” while others have fled.

In December 2014, HRC presented a petition with over 18,000 signatures to the White House, calling on the Obama Administration to take action against President Jammeh, in December 2014.  HRC’s call was accompanied by a video highlighting the abuses of President Jammeh and his anti-LGBT rhetoric.

Later that month, the White House announced that it had suspended The Gambia’s eligibility for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).  A White House spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News the connection between that suspension and the human rights situation in The Gambia.

“The United States must send a message to all Gambians -- and others around the world -- that it does not support the human rights abuses being committed by President Yahya Jammeh’s regime,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.  "The U.S. government can send this critical messages by immediately implementing visa bans on Gambian officials involved in these abuses, and investigating whether the Department of Justice has legal authority to freeze their assets in the United States.”

In January, HRC joined 13 other human rights groups in urging the Obama Administration to take additional action against Gambian leaders following the regime’s ongoing crackdown and persecution of LGBT citizens, and called on it to demand that the Gambian government provide more information about the health and safety of individuals who have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation.The letter also called on the U.S. government to to bar President Jammeh and his associates from entry to the U.S.; and to consider freezing his assets currently held in the U.S.

Nonetheless, President Jammeh continues to act with impunity, imprisoning an unknown  number of LGBT people without charge, while spreading fear throughout his country. He appears to be following up on his declaration last year that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

(Editor's note: This post was originally published on the HRC Blog.)