The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is “deeply disturbed” by recent executions in the Gamba.
After 27 years without any official executions in the Gambia, nine death row inmates were killed by firing squad on 26th August 2012. Ms. Pillay described the executions as an unfortunate setback for human rights protection in the country.
“The Gambia has, for almost three decades, been one of the increasing number of states that did not practice capital punishment – until this sudden, grave, unfortunate change of course,” Ms. Pillay said. “The confusion and lack of transparency for several days over whether the executions actually took place, and accompanying uncertainty about the identity of those executed, is unacceptable, particularly for the family members of those killed. Secretly executing individuals without informing their families amounts to inhuman treatment.”
President Yahya Jammeh said all remaining death sentences would be carried out by mid-September.
Ms. Pillay said President Jammeh’s statement “is extremely worrying, and raises serious questions about the motivation behind the sudden rush to execute.”
She also condemned a further statement by the Ministry of the Interior, which sought to justify the Gambia’s change of policy, saying it “is seriously misguided.”
“I urgently call on the President and relevant authorities in the Gambia to heed all the international, regional and local calls on the Government not to carry out further executions,” Ms. Pillay said.
She also noted that major concerns have been raised about the fairness of the trials of some of those who have been sentenced to death.
Ms. Pillay warned that international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Gambia has ratified, requires compliance with the most rigorous fair trial standards in cases where death sentences are imposed.
She also noted that in 2010 the Gambia reaffirmed its moratorium on the death penalty when it reported to the Human Rights Council for its Universal Periodic Review, and as recently as April 2011 officially abolished the death penalty for drug offences, in accordance with international standards.
“I urge the Gambia to immediately stem this regression in human rights protection, and to impose an official moratorium, effective immediately, on the use of the death penalty,” Ms. Pillay said. “The moratorium that was in place for the past quarter of a century was something the country could be proud of, and was respected for.”