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U.S. Statement on the UPR of The Gambia
February 12, 2010

UN Human Rights Council


Consideration of UPR Reports

Report of the UPR Working Group on The Gambia
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by John C. Mariz

The United States welcomes Her Excellency Mrs. Sain Firdaus, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and the Gambian delegation to the Working Group of the UPR and complements The Gambia for its committed participation in the UPR process . Having carefully reviewed The Gambia’s report and followed its statement, we offer the following comment and recommendations.

The United State commends The Gambia for increasing its law enforcement efforts against trafficking in persons in the last year by prosecuting two trafficking offenders and convicting one. We remain concerned that women and girls continue to be trafficked from neighboring countries for domestic servitude. We recommend that The Gambia continue to intensify its law enforcement efforts against traffickers, incorporate anti-trafficking training into its standard police curriculum, increase efforts to rescue trafficking victims, and provide appropriate care to those individuals.

The United States was deeply saddened and disappointed by the arrest in 2009 of seven Gambian journalists and the harsh sentencing of the six journalists charged with sedition and defamation, but who were subsequently pardoned. A free press is one of the essential cornerstones of democracy, an institution without which freedom cannot be assured. It is vital to the health of any democracy that opposition politicians, human rights activists, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens be allowed to express their opinions freely in the press, without fear of retaliation. This is especially true with regard to criticism of a country’s government and leaders. In a democratic society, one of our most treasured rights is the ability to disagree with the policies or actions of our government. No government likes to be criticized, but every democratic government must realize that criticism, even harsh criticism, of its actions and policies is a fundamental right of the people. Libel laws and laws against seditious speech should never be used to suppress this right. We recommend that The Gambia take all necessary steps to ensure freedom of speech is guaranteed by international conventions to which The Gambia is a signatory.

The United States recommends that The Gambia repeal all provisions of its law criminalizing sexual activity between consenting adults. The United States also recommends The Gambia ensure non-discrimination in access to adequate housing, and prevent forced evictions, as well as the threat of forced evictions, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.