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Letter to Trinidad and Tobago PM on Gambia

Letter to Trinidad and Tobago PM on Gambia

Dear Sir:

I write as the Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). CHRI is a respected international NGO. It is non partisan and independent. The areas of its work look at accountability and we promote in particular police reform and access to information. We also advocate with the Commonwealth to make it more human rights compliant.

Trinidad is host to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this November. It is a great event for your country. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago will take over as chair of the Commonwealth after this meeting. I am sure he will want it to be credible and memorable for more than being just a meeting of heads that decides on crucial issues while looking ahead to examine what the future of the Commonwealth should look like.

With so many new regional and international alliances the Commonwealth must think about the value it adds to the international community. Our view is of course that the Commonwealth is not just about the Heads and governments but about the approximately 1.6 billion people who live in it. Most are poor and oppressed, living under regimes that are often benchmarks of bad governance and human rights violation.

In this context I wanted to bring to your notice a deeply shocking pronouncement of the President of Gambia who is an invitee of the government of Trinidad and Tobbago to the CHOGM in November. I am attaching a letter to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago asking that he discuss through the Secretary general the suitability of inviting The Gambia to CHOGM., as there appears to be no commitment to democracy and the rule of law and the head of a state has made it plain that there is no belief in fair trial while giving an assurance of impunity. Can this be countenanced and a welcome provided at the highest level?

The alleged statement, which is yet to be denied by The Gambia, has concerned the African Human Rights Commission which in a resolution suggested that the Commission should be moved out of Gambia, given fears for the safety of human rights defenders that attend its meetings. The Commission further stated that it is convinced that the President has repudiated fundamental tenets.

Three Special Rapporteurs: Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Ms. Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, have felt concerned enough to issue a statement as attached below.

If you think the matter worthy of publicity discussion and debate in your society, especially the question of allowing the President of Gambia to attend CHOGM, It might be interesting for your paper to bring the issue to the public's notice. Perhaps an opinion poll on whether the President of Gambia should be at a high conclave such as CHOGM amidst uncontested allegations that suggest that he has little belief in the Commonwealth’s foundational values might be timely. It would also be possible to write widely on the issue. It is certainly not an inconsiderable matter.
CHRI would be happy to assist in any clarification or to provide details should you like.

Much information on the issue which has shocked human rights defenders across Africa can in fact be easily found on the web with a simple Google search.


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