On October 1, the U.S. government announced that it would no longer issue new visas to officials of the Gambian government, their spouses or children, due to a longstanding dispute over the African nation’s refusal to accept Gambian citizens being deported from the U.S.
While these visa bans have not been linked to the Gambian government’s terrible human rights record, they are a welcome response to a regime that has long targeted LGBTQ people and other vulnerable Gambians.
HRC has been calling for this particular action against the Gambian government for a number of years. In May, HRC joined 15 other human rights organizations to raise concerns with the U.S. government about a recent spike in human rights violations related to upcoming Gambian national elections in December.
“We urge the United States government to take further actions against President Jammeh and his government to make it clear that continued violations of human rights such as these will not be tolerated and will severely strain his country’s relationship with the United States,” their letter to the U.S. State Department explained. “In particular, as previously requested, we urge you to consider visa bans against Gambian officials guilty of grave human rights abuses…”
“We are very pleased to see the U.S. government taking action against Jammeh and his government,” said Ty Cobb, the Director of HRC Global. “The situation in The Gambia has become intolerable for LGBTQ people, for democracy activists and for any opponents of Jammeh’s government, and we hope that these these latest steps by the U.S. government might cause the Gambian government to rethink its its actions.
This current visa ban follows on other steps the U.S. has recently taken against Jammeh’s government. In December 2014, the White House announced that it was suspending The Gambia’s eligibility for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act. A White House spokesperson confirmed the connection between that suspension and the human rights situation in The Gambia at that time.
Nonetheless, President Jammeh continues to act with impunity, imprisoning an unknown number of LGBTQ people without charge, while spreading fear throughout his country. In 2015, he threatened to “slit the throats” of any gay men in his country and in April 2016, Gambian police broke up several peaceful pro-democracy gatherings, imprisoning protesters, some of whom later died under mysterious circumstances while in prison.
HRC will continue to advocate for the human rights of LGBTQ people in The Gambia and push for further U.S. responses to human rights abuses committed by the Gambian government and its allies.