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GOVERNMENT OF GAMBIA DERAILS VISIT BY UNITED NATIONS EXPERTS AT THE LAST MINUTE

GOVERNMENT OF GAMBIA DERAILS VISIT BY UNITED NATIONS EXPERTS AT THE LAST MINUTE
12 August 2014

GENEVA (issued as received) – The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and summary, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns, today expressed their deep disappointment with the unilateral decision taken by the Government of The Gambia to postpone their country visit, scheduled to start today and take place until 18 August 2014.

In a letter dated 6 August 2014, the Government of The Gambia informed the UN independent experts* that the visit is no longer suitable due to an “unexpected commitment”. The Special Rapporteurs have reached out to the Government for an explanation but have received none to date.

“We find it extremely worrying that a major undertaking dealing with issues such as unlawful killings and torture can be cancelled without explanation, just as it is about to start,” the experts said.

The Government proposed a delay until early 2015, but the lack of information about the reasons gives rise to legitimate concerns about whether this visit will actually take place.

“The Government’s decision to postpone our visit casts doubt on The Gambia's willingness to engage with the United Nations' special procedures and to respond to the legitimate expectations of the human rights constituency in Gambian civil society,” the independent experts noted.

The Special Rapporteurs urged the Gambian authorities to honour its commitments made to the UN Universal Periodic Review process in 2010, which included the acceptance of a recommendation to welcome a visit by the mandate on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other special procedures.

“While we are still in the dark about the Government’s motives, we do know that many interlocutors at the local, national and international level were anticipating our visit,” the experts said. “Civil society organizations, victims of summary executions, torture and ill-treatment, and their families viewed our visit as an opportunity for dialogue.”

“We continue to make ourselves available to the Government with the expectation that we will receive an explanation and set new dates for our visit as soon as possible. We continue to closely monitor the human rights situation in The Gambia,” they concluded.

(*) The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as ‘Special Procedures’, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights System. ‘Special Procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 38 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 73 mandate holders.

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – The Gambia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/GMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Sonia Cronin (+41 22 917 91 60 / scronin@ohchr.org) or Ms. Brenda Vukovic +41 22 917 96 35/ bvukovic@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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For use of the information media; not an official record

HR14/224E