May 17, 2011, 4:08 PM
France has condemned in a stern declaration remarks by President Yahya Jammeh that, by the middle of next month, all death sentences would have been carried out to the letter.
In a statement issued by the French ministry of foreign Affairs and posted on its official web site, France said The Gambia has applied a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1981.
“France therefore urges Gambia to maintain this moratorium with a view toward the definitive abolition of the death penalty, and not to execute these death row prisoners. It also demands that Gambia commute all death sentences to custodial sentences,” France stated.
The statement added that “France, in keeping with its opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, believes that the death penalty is a cruel punishment and that its abolition contributes to strengthening human dignity.”
It said considerable progress has been made in the fight to abolish the death penalty in recent years.
“As of today, 139 states have renounced the death penalty by abolishing it or by adopting a de facto moratorium. We must not slow down our efforts to achieve the universal and definitive abolition of the death penalty”.
In an address to the nation to mark the Muslim holy feast of Eid-al-Fitr, Jammeh said by the middle of next month (September 2012), all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter, though he did not give the exact number of the prison inmates currently on death row.
“All punishments prescribed by law will be maintained in the country to ensure that criminals get what they deserve; that is, that those who kill are killed, and those who deserve to be put away from society are put away according to the dictates of the law,” Jammeh said.
According to Jammeh, Gambians have witnessed in recent times an undesirable and unwarranted escalation of crimes like murder, armed robbery, burglary, and alarmingly, kidnapping, to cite a few examples.
These, he said, are crimes that were hitherto unknown in The Gambia, but they have found their way into Gambian society.
While stating that these acts are perpetrated by non-Gambians, Jammeh said Gambians have either been accomplices or have also engaged in these dreadful crimes.
In his view, there are increasing episodes of infanticide as well as homicide committed by husbands against their wives, and children against their parents.
He added that these are heinous crimes and are wholly unacceptable, especially in a nation where over 90% of the population claim to be practising Muslims and believers in the Almighty Allah.
“My government will never condone acts that endanger the fabric of our society or thwart the people’s development efforts. Our objective is to create a peaceful, happy and crime-free nation, where the standard of living will be excellent for the citizenry,” he said, adding that banditry, drug trafficking or its illicit use, homosexuality, murder, terrorism and other subversive activities against either the state or the people will not be tolerated”.
The reaction by the French government followed that of opposition party leaders in the country, notably Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party, Hamat Bah of the National Reconciliation Party and Mai Ahmad Fatty of the Gambia Moral Congress.