Amnesty International urges Gambia to stop mass executions

Amnesty International on Tuesday said it was appalled at the execution in Gambia of nine death row prisoners by firing squad and urged government not to kill an estimated 38 prisoners remaining.

“We are appalled that the Gambian authorities carried out the nine executions and urge them to ensure that no further executions take place,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.

Gambia’s interior ministry said Monday nine death row prisoners including a woman had been executed by firing squad on Sunday night, a week after President Yahya Jammeh vowed to carry out all death sentences by mid-September.

The president’s feared plain-clothed security officers could be seen on the streets of the capital Banjul Tuesday, and tension was palpable among citizens who are afraid to talk about the executions lest their words be recorded by Jammeh’s agents and punished.

In a televised address to mark this year’s Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr Jammeh said: “By the middle of next month, all the death sentences will have been carried out to the letter.

“There is no way my government will allow 99 percent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals.”

Jammeh, a former military officer who seized power in a 1994 coup, rules the tiniest nation on the African mainland with an iron fist and brooks no dissent.

The regime of the man who claims he can cure AIDS is often pilloried for human rights abuses, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists.

In November 2011, Jammeh won a fourth term in power, brought to power by an electorate who the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said was “cowed by repression and intimidation.”

While the last official execution took place in 1985, AFP’s correspondent in Banjul said that executions in Gambia, a sliver of land wedged into Senegal, have continued unofficially with the most recent before Sunday’s death squad firing taking place in 2007.

Amnesty International had considered Gambia to be among the 22 of Africa’s 54 states which are abolitionist in practice. Sixteen are abolitionist in law for all crimes.