Gambia Rejects Talks With Donors Over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Gambia said it won’t discuss a new law against homosexuality with donor nations that have urged the West African country to revoke it.

“No country or power will dictate to us what we should do in our country because that country or power gives aid to us,” Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa said in a statement read on state television on Nov. 29.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup 20 years ago, last month signed legislation into law that criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality” and introduces a life sentence for some homosexual acts. In a February speech marking Gambia’s 49th anniversary of independence from the U.K., Jammeh referred to gays as “vermin.”

Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa, faces mounting international criticism of its human-rights record after it applied the death penalty in 2012 for the first time in 27 years, executing nine prisoners by firing squad.

The anti-homosexuality law will fuel hostility against gays and lesbians in the country, and its “vague and imprecise” provisions risk being used to arrest anyone suspected of being gay, according to Amnesty International. The U.S. said in a statement Nov. 24 it was “dismayed” by Jammeh’s move.

Gambia’s government has been accused by the U.S. and the European Union of harassing and torturing critics and severely restricting freedom of expression.

Two United Nations investigators last month broke off a visit to the country after they were denied access to parts of a prison where death row prisoners are being held and prevented from completing an inquiry into the use of torture, according to a UN statement Nov. 7.

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