UN human rights crusader condemns Gambia executions

Protesters gather outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal on August 30, 2012 to demand President Yahya Jammeh halt the mass execution of prisoners, and urging the international community to intervene. The banner reads "Gambia. Stop the fear rule". Photo  AFP

The UN’s special rapporteur Christof Heyns has strongly condemned the executions of the nine death row inmates in the Gambia last week.

Urging the Gambian government to halt all 'arbitrary stream of executions", the official said the executions are a throwback for the West African country, and for the protection of the right to life in the world as a whole.

He added that the executions undermined previous efforts towards the abolition of capital punishment in the Gambia.

In the past, the Gambia has made efforts to abolish in law and practice the death penalty, with a moratorium on the death penalty existing for 27 years.

Mr Heyns said that death sentences were a violation of international standards.

The UN official said according to available evidence the trials leading to the death sentences did not meet due process, lamenting that the executions were carried out in secrecy and without transparency.

In a similar vein, the European Union (EU) foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton warned Monday that the Union would take punitive measures against Gambia over human rights concerns. The EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton disclosed this on Monday.

'Yahya assassin!'

Warning Gambia authorities against carrying out any further executions, the EU official reminded Yahya Jammeh's government of its international obligations.
Currently, 38 people on death row in The Gambia are facing the risk of execution.

The families of the executed persons are yet to be told of where they were buried while the families of those on the list are fearful that their relatives may be executed at anytime.

Meanwhile, scores of Senegalese protested outside Gambia's embassy Thursday to demand that President Yahya Jammeh halt further executions.

The protesters chanted "Yahya assassin! Jammeh criminal!" and "Jammeh to the ICC (International Criminal Court)" as a handful of riot police kept watch.

"We want to alert the international community to say there are 38 people on death row and if nothing is done ... these people will be executed and thrown into mass graves," said Alioune Tine of the Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights.

"As we speak no remains are in the hands of families."

Tine said the 47-year-old Gambian leader was a "modern day Idi Amin" referring to the former Ugandan dictator, and: "We must absolutely end the regime of this dictator."

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