Reported Executions in Gambia a 'Giant Leap Backwards'

Press Release
August 24, 2012

Reported Executions in Gambia a 'Giant Leap Backwards'

9 Reported Executed; Others Under Imminent Threat

Contact: Alex Edwards, aedwards@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International has received credible reports that nine individuals were executed last night in Gambia and that more are under threat of imminent executions today and in the coming days. The human rights organization strongly denounces the killings, saying they mark a 'giant leap backwards' for the country.

According to reliable sources, nine persons, including one woman, were removed from their prison cells last night and executed. Two of those said to have been executed are supposed to have been Senegalese. Three of the reported executed were sentenced for treason.

"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," said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International's Africa deputy director. "If confirmed, the reported executions would bring The Gambia back into the minority of countries which are still executing."

The last execution in the country took place in 1985, 27 years ago. Amnesty International had classified Gambia as abolitionist in practice, and therefore as one of the more than two thirds of states worldwide which have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice. In Africa, 22 of the 54 member states of the African Union are abolitionist in practice, and 16 are abolitionist in law for all crimes.

On both August 19 and 20, in a television address broadcast to mark the Muslim feast of Eid-al-Fitrt, President Jammeh had announced to the nation that by the middle of September all existing death sentences would be "carried out to the letter."

According to the Gambian government, there were 42 men and two women on death row as of December 31, 2011. This year, three men have reportedly also received the death sentence, making a total of 47 people currently on death row.

"President Jammeh should establish an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, in line with resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights," said Rigaud. "We are urging the authorities to immediately halt any further possible executions."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.