The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has condemned recent public statements by Gambian President Yahyeh Jammeh threatening to kill homosexuals.
In a strongly worded letter to the West African leader, Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC condemned Jammeh for ordering homosexuals out of the country, threatening hotel owners who rented rooms to gay and lesbian people, and threatening summary executions.
Ettelbrick also called for the repeal of Gambia’s antiquated sodomy law, inherited from its days as British colony.
“Blaming sexual minorities for the problems of the country is a strategy that has been tried in other countries. Gay and lesbian people are not your problem or your enemy,” wrote Ettelbrick in the letter.
“They are your sons and daughters, the teachers of your children, the pastors of your churches, the leaders of your mosques, the seller of tomatoes in the market,” We are everywhere, making contributions everyday to the development of our countries.”
A former army lieutenant, Jammeh overthrew the democratically elected government of the Gambia in 1994, while the Gambian President was on a visiting U.S. warship. Since 1994 there have been many well-documented examples of human rights violations in Gambia perpetrated against journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition.
These have included arbitrary arrests and detentions, expulsions and extra-judicial executions. In 2007 President Jammeh announced that he had developed a “miracle cure” for HIV/AIDS.
In February 2008, a number of Senegalese gay men were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in nearby countries, including the Gambia, as a result of a campaign of persecution of lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender people that included arbitrary arrests, violence by mobs, and media attacks.
IGLHRC said that it will be inviting other groups and individuals to take action against homophobic statements by the Gambian head-of-state in the next few days.