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08/28/2012

Gambia Executes Nine Prisoners After 31-Year Moratorium

A spokesman for the government of Gambia has confirmed that Gambia has executed nine prisoners on death row.  In a statement earlier this month, President Yahya Jammeh had vowed to execute all death row prisoners in coming weeks.    Press reports indicate that one of the nine prisoners executed was a woman and two were Senegalese nationals.  According to Amnesty International, three of the prisoners had been sentenced to death for treason.  The BBC reports that there are 36 individuals who remain on death row. 

 Prior to this spate of executions, Gambia was considered an abolitionist de facto state by the United Nations because it had not carried out any executions in the last 10 years.  Although it had not carried out any executions since 1981,  however, Gambian courts continued to hand down death sentences, primarily for political crimes.  In 2011, a number of individuals were sentenced to death in Gambia for treason—after reportedly unfair trials—and seven out of eight individuals sentenced to death in 2010 were convicted of political crimes.  Moving forward with executions after over three decades without executions represents a step backwards in the arena of human rights, and any executions for political crimes might also violate international law.

Omar Jallow, oppositionist leader of the People’s Progressive Party in Gambia, has called on the Government to stop the executions, exhorting “all Gambians including our religious leaders and political leaders and people who lead non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations [to] put pressure on him so that such statements and such acts will not be carried ahead [so that] there would be no executions in the Gambia.”

--Sandra Babcock and Anna Jackson

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