|President Jammeh pledged to have all death row inmates executed by mid-September. Photo | BBC ||
Gambia’s president vow to kill death row inmates by September 2012 has been met with widespread international condemnation.
Speaking on the occasion of the Muslim Feast (Eid-el-Fitr) August 19, Yahya Jammeh announced his government would “execute all those sentenced to death” for killing their fellow human beings.
One of the most respectable international human rights groups, Amnesty International, which has a keen interest on rights violations in the Gambia said: “President Jammeh’s reported comments that people sentenced to death will be executed by September must not be acted on, and must be retracted.
“President Jammeh’s comments are deeply troubling and will undoubtedly cause severe anguish to those on the death row and their families,” Amnesty International Africa Director Audrey Gaughran said.
“Any attempt to carry out this threat would be both deeply shocking and a major setback for human rights in Gambia,” Gaughran added.
More than 40 death row inmates, including women are currently held in the tiny West African country’s prisons.
Amnesty fears if the executions are carried out, it will mark an end to a 27-year period without executions. The last execution in the country dates as far back as 1985.
In a statement, Amnesty said it currently classify Gambia as abolitionist in practice, and therefore as one of 141 country’s (more than two thirds of states) worldwide which have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice.
The Gambian leader, whose stand to execute death sentences is based on the increase murder cases in the country, said “I gave four years for people to stop the brutal killing of their fellow human beings and instead of people heeding to my warning, they continue to commit heinous crimes. It is going too far and I am going to put a stop to it.
“I will set an example on all those who have been condemned,” he warned, adding “I don’t want any religious leader to come and beg for clemency.”
However, an outspoken religious leader used the occasion of the Eid to call on the president to be forgiving. “We all expect that the president will use this occasion to release those in prison so that they can be reunited with their families,” the Kanifing South Mosque Imam, Baba Leigh told The Standard.
“He should not say people should not beg him for forgiveness because he is in a position to be begged... even though it is his discretion to accept or reject the appeals,” added Imam Leigh who is also a human rights activist. “We all want the Gambia to continue to be known as a place of peace, unity and friendliness.”
The pan-African regional grouping, the African Union on Friday called on Jammeh to renounce his intention to kill all death row inmates.
Last year, the Gambia replaced the death penalty for life imprisonment for drug-related offences.
Reacting to that development, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Mrs. Hannah Foster told me: “The right to life is sacred. No one should take a life that you do not give.”
Written by Modou S. Joof
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