Amnesty: Gambian crackdown on gay people is ‘unacceptable’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Amnesty International has said the arrest, detention and torture of gay people in Gambia this month shows that the country must stop its crackdown on homosexuality.

The organisation says eight people have been subjected to the treatment since the beginning of November.

“These arrests took place amid an intensifying climate of fear for those perceived to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“This unacceptable crackdown reveals the scale of state-sponsored homophobia in Gambia. Intimidation, harassment, and any arrest based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity is in clear violation of international and regional human rights law. The Gambian authorities must immediately stop this homophobic assault”.

Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

According to Amnesty, since 7 November, the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Presidential Guards have been carrying out a homophobic operation resulting in the arrests of five men, including a 17-year-old boy, and three women.

All those arrested were taken and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul, the capital, and were told they were under investigation for homosexuality but have not been formally charged.

Amnesty reports that they have been tortured, subjected to ill-treatment, and made to give information about other people perceived to be gay.

The report continues that a means to obtain information the NIA has been using methods such as beatings, sensory deprivation and the threat of rape. The detainees were told that if they did not “confess,” a device would forced into their anus or vagina to “test” their sexual orientation.

“The use and threat of torture against those arrested is truly shocking, but sadly not surprising. Just weeks after Gambia refused UN human rights monitors access to its prisons, we have further evidence of the cruelty inflicted on victims of the security forces – this time on those simply perceived as being different”, said Mr Cockburn.