Gambia shoots nine death row inmates in mass execution

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA (BNO NEWS) -- The Gambian government on Sunday executed nine death row inmates by firing squad after they were previously convicted of murder or treason, the interior ministry confirmed on Tuesday, prompting condemnation from the international community.

The ministry said the nine death row inmates were executed by firing squad on Sunday, but sources previously told human rights organization Amnesty International that the executions took place on Thursday last week. That report was immediately denied by the Gambian government.

"Following the convictions and pronouncements of death sentences by the Gambian Courts of competent jurisdiction and further to the exhaustion of their appeals, the Ministry of Interior wishes to inform the general public that the following convicts were executed by firing squad on Sunday 26th August, 2012," the ministry said in a statement.

Three of those executed were identified as former Lieutenant Lamin Jarjou, former Lieutenant Alieu Bah, and former Sergeant Lamin F. Jammeh. They were charged with two counts of treason, two counts of murder, four counts of unlawful wounding with intent to do grievous harm, two counts of robbery and two counts of abduction. They were convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court of The Gambia in October 1998, and their appeals were dismissed.

Another death row inmate was identified as Dawda Bojang, a man who was charged and convicted of murdering British national Ronald Stanley. He was sentenced to life in prison by the Kanifing Magistrates Court in August 2007 and later won an appeal against the sentence, only to have it substituted by a death sentence in July 2010.

Death row inmate Tabara Samba was convicted of murdering her husband Ebrima Nyang, the interior ministry said. The statement said Samba had poured hot cooking oil on Nyang after she learned he had married a second wife, but other details were not provided. Samba was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2007 and her appeal was later dismissed by the High Court of The Gambia.

The seventh person executed was identified as Buba Yarboe. He was sentenced to death by the High Court in November 2010 after he was found guilty of murdering his mother, Jainaba Jarjou, by hitting her on the head with an iron rod. Yarboe did not appeal his sentence and conviction.

Another death row inmate was identified as Lamin B.S Darboe, who was convicted of murdering Mauritanian national Muhammed Ouid Faal in April 1985. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in December 1986, and an appeal against the conviction and sentence was dismissed in June 1988.

The last death row inmate was identified as Gebe Bah. He was convicted of murdering an individual identified as Njuga Samba by stabbing him in the head in December 1997 in Mariama Kunda village in the Kombo North district of Gambia. He was sentenced to death in January 2004 and a later appeal was dismissed.

"The general public is hereby warned that the rule of law as regards the peace and stability and the protection of lives, property and liberty will not be compromised for whatever reason," the interior ministry said in the statement. "All acts of violence, criminal activities and indiscipline resulting to murder, treason, arson, trafficking in drugs and humans and the likes of such offences attracting death sentences shall not be tolerated. Therefore, all sentences as prescribed by law will be carried out to the letter, including the death penalty."

The statement defended the mass execution, saying the Gambian government has the right to implement its domestic laws. "The Republic of The Gambia is a sovereign state which, like other sovereign states currently implementing the death penalty, has the right to implement its domestic laws as stipulated in her constitution," the statement said.

But the international community condemned the mass execution, coming only a week after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh pledged to execute all death row inmates by mid-September. It is believed at least 38 or 39 people are currently still on death row, and human rights organizations fear they face imminent execution.

"I strongly condemn the executions that took place last week in The Gambia, and call for a halt to further executions," said United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. "This stream of executions is a major step backwards for the country, and for the protection of the right to life in the world as a whole."

The mass execution came as a surprise as the country's last known execution took place in 1985, and human rights organizations said the Gambian government had been making steps toward the abolition of capital punishment. In April 2011, Gambia abolished the death penalty for drug-related offenses, although the interior ministry's statement said the death penalty is still handed down for "trafficking in drugs and humans."

"I am concerned that death sentences were imposed in violation of major international standards, including the most serious crimes provisions," Heyns said on Tuesday. "According to available evidence the trials did not meet due process safeguards. The executions were carried out in secrecy, away from the public and from the families, and do not meet the requirements of transparency."

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also strongly condemned the executions and said member states will consider a response. "I recall the international commitments made by the Government of The Gambia, as well as commitments concerning the respect of Human Rights contained in the Cotonou Agreement, which governs relations between the European Union and The Gambia," she said. "In light of these executions, the European Union will urgently consider an appropriate response."

Also on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland expressed the government's concern about the mass executions. "We condemn the lack of transparency and haste under which these executions were effected and the apparent lack of due process in the proceedings leading to these death sentences," she said.

Nuland added: "The United States calls on President Jammeh to immediately halt all executions in order to review all The Gambia's capital cases and ensure that they are in accordance with The Gambia's domestic law and its international obligations."

Following last week's report from Amnesty International, the United Kingdom on Saturday also condemned the mass execution, even though the Gambian government insists the executions were not carried out until Sunday. "I urge the Gambian authorities to halt any further executions," UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said on Saturday. "The UK Government opposes all use of the death penalty as a matter of principle."

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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