“Stop arbitrary stream of executions,” Gambia urged

United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, has asked the Government of Gambia to refrain from executing a further 39 individuals reported to be on death row.

Mr. Heyns made the call following the executions of nine people on 26th August 2012.

Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Prior to these executions the last official execution in the country took place in 1985.

Mr. Heyns strongly condemned the recent executions in the Gambia, and called “for a halt to further executions.”
“This stream of executions is a major step backwards for the country, and for the protection of the right to life in the world as a whole,” Mr. Heyns said. “These executions undermine previous steps towards the abolition of capital punishment in the Gambia.”

The human rights expert recalled that the country was at the forefront in the region’s efforts to abolish in law and practice the death penalty, with a moratorium on the death penalty for 27 years and the abolition of capital punishment for drug offences in April 2011.

“I am concerned that death sentences were imposed in violation of major international standards, including the most serious crimes provisions. According to available evidence the trials did not meet due process safeguards,” Mr. Heyns underscored. “The executions were carried out in secrecy, away from the public and from the families, and do not meet the requirements of transparency.”

President Yahya Jammeh plans to see that the executions are “carried out to the letter” in the next few weeks.

Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa also condemned the executions and urged the Gambian authorities to ensure that no further executions take place.

“The death penalty is always the ultimate denial of human rights and in these cases the government has compounded the inhumanity by giving little or no notice to either the prisoners or their families. The Gambian authorities must immediately return the prisoners’ bodies to their relatives, and declare an official moratorium on the death penalty,” Rigaud said.