Annual Report: Gambia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Gambia 2013

View More Research

Republic of the Gambia

Head of state and government Yahya Jammeh

For the first time in nearly 30 years the death penalty was carried out, as nine death row inmates were executed without prior notification. The inmates had not exhausted all of their appeals. The authorities also repressed dissent through harassment and intimidation. Security forces routinely made arbitrary arrests and subjected people to arbitrary detention. Prison conditions were appalling.

Death penalty

In August, nine death row prisoners – seven Gambian men, one Senegalese man and one Senegalese woman – were executed by firing squad, a week after President Jammeh had announced plans to carry out all existing death sentences. No prior notification was given to the individual prisoners, their families, their lawyers or the Senegalese authorities. The authorities did not confirm the executions – which caused an international outcry – until several days afterwards. Three of those executed, Malang Sonko, Tabara Samba and Buba Yarboe, were killed without exhaustion of their legal appeals, in violation of international fair trial standards. Another executed man, Dawda Bojang, had been sentenced in 2007 to life imprisonment for murder. When he appealed his conviction at the High Court in 2010, his sentence was changed to death. He had not exhausted his appeal to the Supreme Court when he was executed. The Constitution states that all those sentenced to death must be guaranteed the right of appeal to the Supreme Court.

In September, the President announced a moratorium on executions conditional on the crime rate, thus making the lives of those on death row dependent on external factors.

In October, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions for treason of seven men sentenced to death in June 2010 for plotting to overthrow the government. International observers were barred from the courtroom.

At the end of the year at least 36 people remained on death row.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and police routinely carried out arbitrary arrests. Individuals were often held without charge and beyond the 72-hour time limit within which a suspect must be brought before a court, in violation of the Constitution.