The Gambia postponed a visit at the last minute by two United Nations independent experts, a move they find “extremely worrying” and which casts doubt on the West African country’s commitment to human rights.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and Christof Heyns, the UN expert on summary, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, expressed their deep disappointment regarding the sudden decision by the Gambian Government to postpone their visit until further notice.
“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 in a joint news release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The visit to the region by the United Nations independent experts was scheduled to start today and continue until 18 August.
A letter issued by the Government of The Gambia, dated 6 August, informed the Special Rapporteurs about the unsuitability of the visit due to an “unexpected commitment.”
“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,” they stressed.
The Special Rapporteurs said they have contacted the Gambian authorities for an explanation but have not yet received one.
Mr. Mendez and Mr. Heyns urged the Gambian authorities to honour its commitments made to the UN Universal Periodic Review process in 2010, which included the acceptance to welcome a visit by the mandate on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other special procedures.
“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,” they said, adding that the human rights situation in The Gambia will continue to be closely monitored.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.