Jan 4, 2010, 1:12 PM
In a statement issued yesterday, Amnesty International said the executions carried out last week were done without prior notification to the prisoners, their families or lawyers and that the government confirmed the executions only after substantial international pressure to do so.
“Fears for those who remain on death row have been exacerbated by the fact that family members have been unable to access the prison or to communicate with the inmates since last week,” the statement said.
According to Amnesty, The Gambia’s actions are in violation of international standards in relation to use of the death penalty.
“The executions are also in stark contrast to the trend, both in West Africa and globally, towards ending the use of the death penalty. Since 2000, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo in West Africa, as well as Burundi, Gabon and Rwanda, have abolished the death penalty for all crimes,” the statement added.
In the last few months alone, Amnesty went on, the government of Ghana accepted the recommendation of a Constitution Review Commission to abolish the death penalty in the new Constitution, and Benin became the 75th state worldwide, and the 10th in Africa, to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
Amnesty and the other organizations further called on the Gambian government not to carry out any further executions, and to, immediately and publically, commit to an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty in The Gambia with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
“The government must also release, if requested by the families, the bodies of the individuals who were executed last week,” it concluded.
Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, the Gambia Workers Union has defended the recent execution of nine death row inmates in the country, stressing that killing is becoming rampant and a habit in The Gambia.
In an open letter, signed by Ebrima Garba Cham, Secretary General, addressed to President Yahya Jammeh and copied to the media, the Workers Union said the death penalty is in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic and the laws of The Gambia.
“We also agreed that you want to ensure security, peace, stability, tranquility and progress for all mankind living in the beloved motherland (The Gambia), and to also ensure an enabling environment for investment, which is in the interest of all mankind living in The Gambia,” the Union said, while appealing to President Jammeh to halt the death penalty.