Gambian President Suspends Executions

Posted September 15th, 2012 at 7:40 am (UTC-5)
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Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has announced he is suspending executions for prisoners on death row, after being criticized for allegedly executing nine convicts last month.

Mr. Jammeh announced Saturday that he is responding to numerous appeals asking for a halt to the policy. He said the moratorium will be indefinite if the violent crime rate declines. But he cautioned that an increase in violent crime would spur him to lift the suspension.

The president announced August 19 that Gambia would execute all of its death row prisoners immediately as a means of quelling violent crime. At the time, it had been more than a quarter-century since Gambia carried out an execution.

Days after the president's announcement, there were reports that Gambia had executed nine prisoners by firing squad. That would leave 37 people on Gambia's death row.

International groups have spoken out about the executions, including the European Union, the United Nations, and Amnesty International. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton threatened to cancel Gambia's aid package.

President Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, has long faced criticism over his human rights record.