The European Parliament last Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a joint resolution condemning the political violence of the regime of President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. The resolution which was spearheaded by Scottish lawmaker, David Martin at the request of the Gambian born human rights activists, Alieu Ceesay of the Scotland-based Campaign for Human Rights in The Gambia (CHRG), passed with a resounding majority of 539-27. All seven EU parliament political groupings supported the resolution.
“It is unfortunate that The Gambia has so far received little attention from this European Parliament,” MEP David Martin said. “I am glad that this is changing today, and that we have a strong cross-party resolution that is addressing the systematic human rights abuses being committed by Jammeh’s regime. The European Union must underline to the Gambian government that it will always prioritize human rights in its dealings with partner countries.”
MEP Martin further emphasized that the behaviour of the Jammeh regime is totally unacceptable. “I strongly condemn the Gambian government’s harsh action against peaceful protestors and the legal measures it has taken to prevent a strong political opposition.”
He hopes “today’s resolution prompts a pro-active response from the EU Commission and Member States to deter Jammeh’s regime from further human rights abuses, and encourage the Gambia to revise its policies on arbitrary detention, and banning public gatherings and free media.”
The Socialist and Democrats, a progressive alliance in the EU Parliament, also reacted to the passing of the resolution. “The European Parliament sent a strong signal to the Gambian government today that human rights are not negotiable when you deal with the EU. An overwhelming majority of MEPs called on Gambia to end its policies of arbitrary detention and torture of civilians. We want to see a free media, a fair judicial system, and freedom of speech, assembly and sexuality in the Gambia. Recent government crackdowns on opposition activists adds to a long history of human rights abuses by this brutal regime, and urgent action is required to prevent the situation from deteriorating in the run-up to the December presidential elections. Despite efforts by the European Union over the last two years to engage with Jammeh’s administration on human rights, little progress has been made and I welcome the resolution’s call for consultations under article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement. The Gambian government must be held to account.”
Alieu Ceesay who is currently at the EU Parliament in Brussels, also reacted to the passing of the resolution saying “the resolution has supported a total travel ban and assets freeze including president Jammeh and all officials and security agents named in human rights violations. This is a major milestone in the history of the fight to restore democracy and the rule of law in The Gambia.”
Mr Ceesay, who has been coordinating with the EU Parliament in a series of meetings and efforts in the run up to the resolution, said the latest move was propelled by the exacerbation of rights abuses due to the latest crackdown and killing of opposition protesters.
Ceesay is “very thankful to my MEP, David Martin, his staff, and all the political groupings who have taken this bold step in sending the strongest signal against the Gambian dictatorship. This means that once implemented by the Commission the Gambian government can no longer access funds except humanitarian assistance, or travel or maintain their assets within the EU zone. To all Gambians home and abroad, activists, and victims of the regime, this is a cause for celebration because it will squeeze the regime to the brink of collapse, if not already, remember, an overwhelming majority of the regime’s donor funds come from the EU.”
Omar Bah, chairperson of Gambia Youth for Unity, a united coalition partner of the Alieu Ceesay-led CHRG, expressed gratitude to Mr. Ceesay and his group for a very successful campaign through his MEP and the EU Parliament. “These are the kind of actions that make a fundamental difference in the campaign against impunity in The Gambia. I encourage Gambians living in the US and other parts of the world to also engage their senators and congressional delegations to extend similar sanctions against the Jammeh regime. The EU action is a game changer and there is no way Jammeh tyranny can ignore its impact. I therefore thank Mr. Ceesay, MEP Martin and everyone who supported the resolution at the EU Parliament.”