In a bold move Monday the U.S. State Department condemned the decision by Gambia’s president to approve a law imposing life imprisonment for homosexual acts.
“We are dismayed by President Jammeh’s decision to sign into law legislation that further restricts the rights of L.G.B.T. individuals and are deeply concerned about the reported arrests and detention of suspected L.G.B.T. individuals in Gambia,” said State department Director of Press Relations Jeff Rathke.
The atatement came after concerned were risen over reports of a recent arrests targeting at least four men, a 17-year-old boy and nine women accused of committing homosexual acts.
The suspects are the first to be arrested since the new law went into effect Oct. 9, the day President Yahya Jammeh signed it. Amnesty International last week accused Gambian security forces of resorting to beatings and the threat of rape and other abuses if they did not confess.
Homosexual acts were already punishable by up to 14 years in prison before Gambian lawmakers passed a bill in August punishing “aggravated homosexuality” with life in prison.
Suspects can also be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged
Jammeh, one of Africa’s most vocal anti-gay leaders, has also been criticized for other rights abuses, including allowing the execution of nine people by firing squad in 2012