Paris, Nairobi, Dakar, Ouagadougou, Geneva, 11 November, 2009
On September 21, 2009, appearing on state-owned radio and television, the President of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, threatened to kill anyone who sought to sabotage and destabilise his government, in particular human rights defenders and those who support them .
Considering it inadmissible that a President threaten to undermine the physical integrity of human rights defenders with complete impunity, and recalling their support for the resolution adopted on October 11, 2009 by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) –the headquarters of which are in Banjul, the Gambia – on the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Gambia , our organisations will not participate in the 46th ordinary session of the ACHPR to be held from 11 to 25 November 2009, in Banjul, the Gambia. This decision has been taken in the absence of a change in the attitude of the Gambian authorities on the question of human rights defenders since President Jammeh’s statements and in the absence of a public position of the African Union (AU) on these statements as well as on the possibility of transfering the headquarters of the ACHPR.
Our organisations are deeply concerned about the hostile context in which human rights defenders and journalists operate in the Gambia where hindrances to freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests and detentions, murders and judicial harrassment against them are recurrent. FIDH recalls that the murder of the renowned Gambian journalist, M. Deyda Hydara, has not yet been solved. These violations blatantly contravene to previous resolutions of the ACHPR on the human rights situation in the Gambia, which called on the national authorities to « respect the rights of journalists and other human rights defenders” . This blatant hostility against human rights defenders is moreover contrary to the headquarters agreement between the AU and the Gambia. Therefore, the maintaining in the Gambia of the ACHPR headquarters, the AU organ established to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa, undermines significantly the credibility of this body which is an essential forum in which human rights defenders can express themselves.
Our organisations call on the Gambian president to withdraw his threats and to publicly declare his support to the work of human rights defenders. Our organisations recall that the Gambian authorities committed to guaranteeing the physical and moral integrity of the human rights defenders who will participate in the 46th session of the ACHPR .
Once more, our organisations call on the AU to firmly condemn the Gambian President’s statements and to consider the possibility of relocating the headquarters of the ACHPR to a state party which guarantees the respect of fundamental freedoms, in particular freedoms of expression, association, assembly and opinion so as to enable human rights defenders seeking to participate in the ACHPR sessions to express their concerns and recommendations on the human rights situation in their respective countries openly and without fear of reprisals.
Even though our organisations will not participate in the 46th ordinary session of the ACHPR, they will monitor the conclusions and recommendations resulting from this session. The ACHPR remains the fundamental body for the protection and promotion of human rights on the African continent.
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (RADDHO)
Interafrican Union for Human Rights (IUHR)
International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)