Saturday, 12 January 2013 16:43(JollofNews) – With its hands already filled with pressure from the European Union, President Yahya Jammeh’s increasingly isolated government may soon find itself in another trouble.
As a result of a meeting between the Coalition of Civil Society Groups on Gambia and the UK House of Lords, a prominent British politician has called for the West African country to be referred to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
Lord Eric Avebury, Joint Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights in the British House of Lords, has written to the UK Coalition government proposing that Gambia be added to the list of countries under the scrutiny of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
CMAG was established in November 1995 to punish serious or persistent violations of the Harare Declaration, which set out fundamental political and democratic values for member countries.
The meeting with the UK politicians was held on Thursday. It was instigated by Lord Eric Avebury at the request of the Scottish based Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia CHRG-UK, headed by Gambian journalist Alieu Ceesay.
It saw journalists, campaigners, as well as politicians from Gambia and across the world sharing views on the on-going systematic attacks on journalists and media workers as well as the general human rights situation in the country.
Lord Avebury, in a letter, sought to enquire from the UK Coalition Government about the current situation regarding their representation to the Gambian government about its closure of independent newspapers and a radio station, the recent expulsion of a BBC journalist, and other attacks on freedom of expression in Gambia.
The parliamentary group was set up to raise the profile of international human rights issues within parliament and to investigate and publicise human rights abuses occurring outside the UK.
Alieu Ceesay, Campaign Officer of CHRG-UK, described the meeting as timely considering the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Gambia.
“We hope to build on this momentum to continue to engage with the international community to prioritise the Gambian situation, and through the European Union, pressure is being brought to bear on the Gambian Government to adhere to international laws on human rights and freedom of speech that the country has signed up to,” the Gambian born journalist said.
Amnesty International’s Ayodele Ameen at the same meeting called for stronger action from the international community stressing that Gambia must adhere to the international laws it has signed.
The Nigerian rights activists told the meeting that the Gambian situation have drag on for a long time now and that more needed to be done to end the wave of terror that swept the African country since 1994.
Rt. Hon Bakary Dabo, former Gambian Vice Preident, appealed to the UK government through Lord Avebury, whose party is in government, to help Gambia and its people.
"The people of the Gambia have been held on their throat by a very vicious regime and looking at the historical ties between the UK and Gambia we want your government to lead the international community in ending this situation in Gambia," he said.
Jim Boumella, President of the International Federation of Journalist (IFJ), Sarah Kavanah, Senior Communications Officer of National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kaye Whiteman of the Commonwealth Journalist Association (CJA) and Elizabeth Witchel of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) all spoke on the lack of an independent press in Gambia, the disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh in 2006, the murder of newspaper publisher Deyda Hydara in 2004.
Other issues they highlighted include the blocking of some online Gambian newspapers seen as critical to the present regime, the skewered dissemination of information and the recent closures of two newspapers and a radio station in the country.
Other resolutions that came out of the meeting, besides referring Gambia to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, include working closely with NUJ Parliamentary Group and IFJ affiliate organisations in Africa to put pressure on the African Union to act against the Yahya Jammeh-led Gambian government.
Meanwhile, concern was also expressed about the continuous detention of a prominent Islamic leader, Imam Baba Leigh, who remains in detention without any charge.
The lack of progress in the investigation of journalists Hydara and Manneh was also lamented. Yahya Jammeh is yet to respond to a recent UN request to appoint a contact person on the matter.
The meeting was also attended by Abdoulie Bojang, former Gambian High Commissioner, Paul Dillane of Amnesty International, and Ian Maczie of CHRG-UK,
Written by Kemo Cham
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