|Madam Hannah Foster|
The Executive Director of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Madam Hannah Foster has stressed that there is a need to abolish the death penalty in The Gambia.
This is because it is a fact that the right to life is sacred and since we do not give life it is agreed that we cannot take away what we do not give, she said.
Madam Foster was speaking to our news editor on April 26, 2011 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Senegambia, in reaction to the recent substitution of a “death sentence” for drugs to a “life sentence” by the National Assembly.
“I think alternative ways of punishment should be put in place. The death penalty is a severe punishment and though it is supposed to serve as a deterrent, it is not because it does not stop people from committing the same crime. So we should look at other alternatives,” she said.
She said, in terms of punishment, you cannot come up with a one-size-fit-all. These are organized crimes of which people have lost their lives because of it. Drug dealers have a very sophisticated network. They (drug dealers) can also commit murder in the process of trafficking and the like.
“I think the judiciary should find an equitable punishment for perpetrators of crimes of drugs and drug related offences. They have a justice system that is independent enough to ensure that this is implemented,” she added.
Following a massive cocaine bust worth over USD1 billion by Gambia’s Drug Agency, the NDEA, in June 2010 for which 9 foreign nationals are being tried, the National Assembly decided to amend the Drug Control Act 2003 and the Human Trafficking Act 2007 four months later.
The amendment says that “anyone caught with over 250 grammes of Cocaine and subsequently convicted by a court of law, will be handed the death penalty as a punishment”.
However, in what has been described as “an embarrassing climb down”, Gambia’s Parliament decided to replace the death penalty for drugs and drug related offences for a life sentence and an additional heavy fine on April 4, 2011.
The decision followed the presentation of the bills before lawmakers for amendment by the Minister of Justice Edward Gomez, who admitted that the Drug Control Amendment Act 2010 disregarded Section 18 (2) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia.
The section sates that “no Court in the country shall be competent to impose a sentence of death for any offence unless the sentence is prescribed by law and the offence involves violence, or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the death of another person.”