Friday, November 20, 2009

Human rights activists not given up on Jammeh

CHRI Director, Maja Daruwala

Despite his carefully calculated maneuver to save himself from the obvious hullabaloo that awaited him at CHOGM, Yahya Jammeh still has much to worry about, if the words of Maja Daruwala, Director of the India-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), are anything to go by.

Mrs Daruwala has vowed that the issue over the refutation of anti-human rights remarks by Yahya Jammeh is not over. Her declaration, as published by Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, came shortly after the authorities in the Caribbean nation, host of next week’s Common Wealth summit, indicated that any decision to take action against the Gambian dictator for his threatening remark will be rest in the hands of heads of governments.

“We are not going to make a pronouncement on it. If it comes up at all (at CHOGM) it will be a matter for the heads (of government) and by consensus, it will then be referred to the Commonwealth Ministers Action Group whose responsibility it is to assess violations of the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth,” Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon was quoted as saying earlier on Wednesday.

In an apparent response to this development, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian quoted the CHRI director, who was preparing to depart for the summit, as saying that “This does not end the matter, there is still a welcome for the delegation from the country whose head of state has done nothing to repudiate his widely-publicized statement or deny it or try to explain it.’’

Describing Jammeh’s infamous and widely condemned statement as ‘‘a clear rejection of the fundamental principles the Commonwealth holds dear,” the human rights activist lamented the continued “silence from the Commonwealth, its secretariat, its outgoing and incoming chairs’’ despite “the urgings of civil society and serious concerns voiced by very serious people like the special rapporteurs of the UN and the African Commission for Human Rights, which made a joint statement against the remarks.”

Daruwala’s CHRI has been among a growing voice of discontent against the Gambian leader who continues to wallow in his pride, defying voices of wisdom to withdraw his widely condemned threat against human rights defenders.

Although there is reason to believe that Yahya Jammeh’s decision to stay away from the CHOGM can not be removed from obvious security threat against his increasingly unpopular government back home, mainly caused by his unconventional style of ruling which has earned him a substantial base of opposition even within a traditionally conniving security forces, it is also clear that his decision not to fly to Trinidad and Tobago has to do with his idea of saving himself from embarrassment.

Nonetheless, Jammeh has reasons to think about the fact that the fray is by no means over. According to the Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Affairs Minister, who indicated that she will be representing her country on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), it would be up to this organ to determine whether Jammeh’s recent statements breached the Harare Declaration and if any action should be taken against him.

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