More Executions in Gambia Expected

Posted August 25th, 2012 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Amnesty International says more executions could take place in Gambia in the coming days, after nine condemned prisoners apparently were put to death late Thursday – the first executions in the tiny West African nation in more than a quarter-century.

Authorities in The Gambia have refused to comment on Amnesty International's report that eight men and one woman were executed, presumably by hanging. In a televised address , President Yahya Jammeh told his nation he will ensure that the death penalty is “carried out to the letter” by mid-September for all condemned prisoners.

Government officials have confirmed the president's statement but have not discussed any individual cases. Before Thursday, it was believed that Gambian courts had handed down death sentences for 47 imprisoned men and women – many of whom had been charged with treason.

Amnesty International is appealing to Mr. Jammeh to reverse the “giant leap backwards” he took by ordering the execution of all prisoners already sentenced to death.

News reports say the African Union and Britain also urged Mr. Jammeh to call off the executions. Without responding directly, authorities in Banjul have stressed that all condemned prisoners have already exhausted their judicial rights of appeal.

A former British colony, The Gambia is a popular tourist destination for Europeans. President Jammeh has ruled the country since leading a military coup in 1994, and his administration has been accused of many human-rights abuses.

One account says two Senegalese citizens were among those executed. The Gambia is a small sliver of land surrounded by Senegal, which is much larger and more populous, except where the Gambia River empties into the Atnatic Ocean near Banjul, the capital.

Capital punishment was outlawed in Gambia decades ago, but Mr. Jammeh reinstated the death penalty in 1995, one year after he seized power. However, no executions – either by hanging, as is traditional, or by any other means – had been carried out until now.

The last reported execution in Gambia occurred in 1985.