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US removes anti-gay Gambia from trade agreement

US removes anti-gay Gambia from trade agreement

The US government has removed Gambia from a trade benefits program for abusing human rights, including a new law that imposes life imprisonment for some gay acts.

The White House did not initially give any reason why Gambia would cease being a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), according to the Associated Press.

On Wednesday (Dec 24), a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative explained the move was made in response to an anti-gay law signed in October, even as news emerged that three gay men in the West African country were arrested.

‘The U.S. Trade Representative has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process,’ Trevor Kincaid said.

Gambia President Yahya Jammeh is regarded as one of Africa’s most vocal anti-gay leaders. He has previously threatened to behead sexual minorities found in his country.

Local organizations such as the Coalition for Change have praised the U.S. move, as has the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign, reports the AP.

‘This decision is an important first step in sending a clear signal to President Yahya Jammeh and his associates about their human rights record, and they cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of LGBT Gambians,’ said Jean Freedberg, deputy director of HRC Global.

Gambia will stop having duty-free access to US markets from Jan 1, along with South Sudan which was removed from the 14-year-old trade program over human rights concerns related to its ongoing conflict.