The Gambia halts death row executions

Following the executions of nine death row prisoners, President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia has suspended any further execu­tions of death row inmates. In a statement on 15 September, Jammeh said he was respond­ing to ‘numerous appeals’ from governmen­tal and human rights organisations, including the African and European Unions, the Com­monwealth and Amnesty International.

The executions, which were confirmed by the government on 27 August and in­cluded one woman and two Senegalese na­tionals, were the first in The Gambia in 27 years. It is unknown for what crimes they were executed, although three of the pris­oners were believed to have been sentenced for treason. Jammeh had vowed in August to clear death row by mid-September, and declared in his recent statement that the sus­pension of executions could be temporary.

According to Reuters, the president’s statement said, ‘What happens next will be dictated either by a declining violent crime rate, in which case the moratorium would be indefinite, or an increase in vio­lent crime rate, in which case the morato­rium will be lifted automatically.’ Another 37 inmates remain on death row.

Senegal formally protested to The Gambia about the execution of two of its citizens and demanded that the life of a third Senegalese death-row prisoner be spared. A Gambian opposition political group, the National Transitional Council of The Gambia, based in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, told the BBC that they intended to create a government in exile with an aim to see the end of Jammeh’s ‘dictatorship’.

Jammeh’s human rights record has often been criticised by international organisations, with particular concerns over press freedom. The death penalty in The Gambia was abol­ished under former president, Dawda Ja­wara, but was reinstated in 1995 shortly after Jammeh seized power in a military coup.


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