By Kemo Cham
The Ghanaian authorities have been urged to demand the Gambian government to improve on its human rights record, according to a report published by Morderghana.com
The newspaper cited a joint press release obtained from Amnesty International’s Ghana office and the Ghana based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative as calling on the Ghanaians to prevail on the Gambian government to improve on its highly disputed human rights record when it comes under review at the United Nations on Wednesday, 10 February.
The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR), presently under way in the Swiss capital of Geneva, offers UN members the opportunity to question individual countries’ human rights records and to suggest action to address violations. Each country is reviewed every four years with the aim of ensuring states meet all of their human rights obligations and commitments. The Gambia is among 17 countries whose human rights records are under review at this 7th session of the Council. So both Amnesty Ghana office and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative sees this occasion as a perfect opportunity to prevail on the Gambian authorities to do something on their highly criticized rights record.
“Ghana has a key role to play in strengthening the human rights situation in Gambia when it is reviewed at the UN,” said Nana Oye Lithur, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
“Journalists in Gambia continued to be attacked and threatened. Ghana must call on the Gambian government to ensure members of the media are given the full and fair protection of the law,” said Lawrence Amesu, director of Amnesty International Ghana.
According to Modern Ghana, in a report submitted to the UN ahead of this week’s review, Amnesty International, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and 10 other concerned stakeholders, detailed evidence of harassment, threats and unlawful arrests against journalists in Gambia.
It recalled that since 1994 when the present government came to power through a military coup that saw the unconstitutional removal of a democratically elected government, at least 29 journalists have been forced to leave the country, more than half of them in the last two years and at least 10 of them have been granted asylum elsewhere.
In August 2009, six journalists were sentenced to two years imprisonment and a US$ 10,000 fine because they had criticized a statement by the president about the unsolved murder of prominent journalist Deydra Hydara. They were released under a ‘presidential pardon’ on 3 September 2009.
Both organizations also urged Ghana to ensure that the review is used as an opportunity to call on the Gambian government to investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, the newspaper reported. It added that the human rights situation in Gambia has worsened since the foiled alleged coup plot in March 2006.
The two bodies also called on the Gambian government itself to use the occasion of the UPR to demonstrate real commitment to the fulfillment of its human rights obligations and commitments.
By Kemo Cham