PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The India-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is calling on Commonwealth leaders to “strongly condemn” statements made by Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh regarding the personal safety of human rights advocates.
In a letter sent to Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, CHRI said that even though the Gambian president would not be attending the November 27-29 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit in Trinidad, there was need for the former British colonies to send a message condemning his public statement to kill human rights advocates.
“The gravity of the threat remains as does the unequivocal repudiation of the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth: in simple words – a repudiation of all that the Commonwealth stands for,” said the CHRI letter.
The human rights group said it disagreed with earlier suggestions that the alleged statements by Jammeh have not been “officially validated” referring the Secretary General to the joint statements from three United Nations and African Rapporteurs “and the serious and credible reactions of the African Commission which has even suggested it be moved out of Banjul…”
Further it said there has been “no denial of the statement nor anything to suggest that it has been misinterpreted”.
“This is a moment of truth, Secretary General, and I would urge the Secretariat, before or at the CHOGM itself, to strongly recommend a statement by Member States that indicates that the Commonwealth has a clear stance in defence of human rights and its promoters and protectors.
“This will lay to rest some of the deep apprehensions that are reverberating widely across civil society in the Commonwealth.
“Absence of any challenge to his statement, reproof or protest by the leadership of the Commonwealth will leave a great deal of disillusionment in its wake, fear on the ground, and may well be construed as acceptance of the positions of impunity and violence that are clearly asserted in the President’s alleged statement,” said the letter signed by CHRI director, Maja Daruwala.