House of Lords written question – answered on 11 October 2012.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Government of Gambia, both bilaterally and through the Commonwealth, about human rights, the death penalty and press freedom; and what outcomes have resulted.

Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Senior Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Jointly with the Department for Communities and Local Government), Senior Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Faith and Communities) (also in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The British Government are deeply concerned about human rights in the Gambia, particularly in light of the execution in August of nine prisoners on death row. Our high commissioner in Banjul regularly raises human rights issues with the Gambian Government, both twice-yearly through formal EU Article 8 discussions and when specific incidents occur.

We have made clear our opposition to the use of the death penalty. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my honourable friend Mr Burt issued a statement on 25 August expressing concern over the then unconfirmed reports of executions. Our high commissioner also has made a number of representations to the Gambian Government. On 12 September, acting as the local president of the EU, our high commissioner delivered a written statement expressing the EU's position to the Gambian Foreign Minister. Separately, on 28 August, the Commonwealth stated its concern. On 14 September, the Gambian Government issued a statement that restored the death penalty moratorium. We have welcomed this, though we note its conditional and non-binding nature.

The rights of journalists are an on-going concern. The sudden closures of Taranga FM Radio Station and of The Daily News and The Standard newspapers are worrying. We are monitoring the consequences of this closely and are in contact with the owners. In September, two journalists were detained after applying for a permit to demonstrate against the executions. They are facing charges of committing a felony and inciting violence. We are following their case. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights strategy is clear in its support for freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.

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