|President Jammeh pledged to have all death row inmates executed by mid-September. Photo | BBC ||
Widespread media reports said nine death row inmates were “executed” in Gambia on Thursday night.
The reports came four days after Gambia President Yahya Jammeh announced in an Eid (Muslim feast) statement “his government will execute all death sentences in the country by September.”
According to the multinational human rights agency, Amnesty International, Thursday’s “killings” involved nine death row prisoners including a woman. A spokesperson for Amnesty told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, it has spoken to some family members of the “victims”.
"The decision of the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to execute nine prisoners after more than a quarter of a century without execution would be a giant leap backwards," Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Africa region is quoted as saying.
The reports have not been confirmed by the Jammeh administration, but had issued a statement to denounce them.
A press statement broadcasted on Gambia Radio and Television Services, GRTS, said there is no truth in what it described as “rumors”.
It quoted sections of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia which “prohibits the killing of people for offences not involving violence, or offences not resulting in the death of another person.”
The same statement noted that those on death row were tried according to law by the Courts and duly sentenced to death.
Nonetheless, Gambian pressure group, the Civil Society Associations Gambia (CSAG) identified the “executed prisoners” as: Lamin B. Darboe, Alieu Bah, Lamin Jarju, Dawda Bojang, Abubacarr YARBO, [First name not issued] Sonko, L.S Jammeh and two Senegalese (Gibril Bah and Tabara Samba).
But sources told The Voice newspaper the reports of the alleged killing of nine prisoners came before anything could happen. They claim some of the people listed by the CSAG are not in fact on the death row.
One source said: “There were strange movements of prisoners from Mile II central prison to the Jeshwang prison.” Another source added: “That was because certain parts of the Mile II prison were being repaired and it affected certain prison cells.”
Perhaps, the Government should issue another statement to further denounce the allegations and if possible parade those listed as “killed” on TV to dispel further speculations, the source added.
The information could not be independently verified by The Voice newspaper, however.
Following Jammeh’s Eid statement the current chair of the African Union, Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi, sent his foreign minister Nassirou Bako Arifari to The Gambia to tell Jammeh not to carry out the executions.
BBC Afrique quoted Arifari as saying: "After having learned of the imminent execution of a number of prisoners sentenced to death, President Yayi, who is very concerned, wished that President Yahya Jammeh not carry out such a decision."
The opposition party, Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), said in a statement it will undertake among other things, immediate actions which will include “Holding a massive political rally in all Regions to condemn the killings and demand consequences; Raise a delegation to meet families of those killed where possible to express solidarity and offer our little financial support; Launch active campaign to raise awareness against the death penalty for its abolition, and encourage Gambians to exercise their rights.
Currently, 47 prisoners have been listed on the death row. Some of whom were sentenced after convictions on murder or treason.
Abolished by the ousted regime of President Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the death penalty was reinstated in 1995 by the Jammeh Government. Records have it that the last time an official execution was carried out in Gambia was 27 years ago.
Written by Modou S. Joof
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