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Civil Society calls on ECOWAS to condemn Gambia’s Human Rights Record   
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Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Ghana have called on West African governments to condemn The Gambia for the brutality and continued terror that its Head of State, Yahya Jammeh, has been unleashing on defenders of human rights.

The CSOs have also called for the withdrawal of the Headquarters of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), which is currently based in Banjul, The Gambia, because the actions of that country violated the Headquarters Protocol obligation to guarantee the safety and security of members and personnel of the Commission as well as all its users.

A statement by the CSOs read by Nana Oye Lithur, Executive Director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) at a press conference in Accra on Monday, said it was time ECOWAS political heads took serious measures to protest against President Jammeh’s tyrannical rule which threatened to undermine the peace and security of the sub-region.

“We have monitored for some time the deterioration of the human rights situation in The Gambia and wish to call on ECOWAS heads of state to take serious action in response to these developments” it said.

The press conference followed remarks by President Jammeh last Thursday that he would kill anyone who wanted to destabilize The Gambia and that his government would not guarantee the security and safety of human rights defenders.

The statement said the continued use of diplomacy by ECOWAS governments to get President Jammeh to respect the fundamental human rights, values and principles of people, could no longer be justified adding that his remarks amounted to a proclamation of war against human rights defenders.

It said The Gambian President had persistently disregarded the country’s human rights obligations to her citizens and continued without remorse to demonstrate as well as commit brutality against them.

It said the abuse of civilian rights in the country was not limited to Gambians alone, and listed other incidents including the murder of the 44 Ghanaians in 2005, blatant disrespect to the authority of human rights monitoring institutions such as the ECOWAS Community Court, suppression of media freedom, abuse of power and rule of law, adding that these had become the hallmark of President Jammeh’s regime.

The statement also disapproved of The Gambia’s proposed amendment of the powers of the ECOWAS Court.

It said the proposal, which was being considered at a meeting on Monday by an ECOWAS Committee of Experts in Abuja, Nigeria, was a deliberate attempt to weaken the court’s power to confront tyrannical regimes such as that of President Jammeh, and get rid of the necessary safeguards against impunity and arbitrary rule that the court championed.

It requested that the ECOWAS Commission invited the CSOs in the sub-region to make representations to the meeting to champion the human rights interests of citizens of member states.

Meanwhile, the CSOs said until President Jammeh revoked the declaration of war on human rights campaigners, the ECOWAS Commission should not convene sessions at the Headquarters of (ACHPR) in the Gambia.

Some of the CSOs present at the press conference were the CDD, HRAC, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Media Foundation for West Africa, West Africa Network for Peace Building, Amnesty International-Ghana, and the Trades Union Congress.

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