Gambia opposition attacks plan to expand death penalty

2015-06-23 17:05
Yahya Jammeh. (AFP)

Yahya Jammeh. (AFP)

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Banjul - Opposition activists have vowed to fight plans announced by The Gambia to expand the list of offences punishable by death to any crime deemed sufficiently serious by parliament.

The west African nation currently allows the sanction only for people convicted of causing someone's death through violence or the administration of toxic substances.

The government announced earlier this month, however, that it would hold a referendum on changing the constitution to permit execution whenever "the sentence is prescribed by law".

"It means the government would be able to [impose] the death penalty for any crime it deems fit, by just passing a bill at the national assembly," opposition leader Halifa Salla told AFP late on Monday.

Sallah said his People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism would "leave no stone unturned" in organising people to vote "no" in the referendum, for which a date is yet to be set.

All Gambians aged over 18 will be entitled to take part, with a "yes" vote of 75% on a turnout of at least 50% carrying the motion.

The law would be changed within a maximum of nine months after a “yes” vote, according to Salla.

No official crime statistics are released by the government in mainland Africa's smallest country, which is surrounded by Senegal except for a narrow strip of Atlantic coast and has a population of just 1.7 million.

President Yahya Jammeh announced in August 2012 that all death row prisoners would be executed by mid-September and a week later the first batch of nine convicts were executed by firing squad.

The killings caused international outrage, especially in Senegal, which counted two citizens among those put to death.

Rights groups estimate another 30 convicts face the firing squad but no executions have been announced since.

Jammeh, an outspoken military officer and former wrestler, has ruled Gambia with an iron fist since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994.

He is often accused of rights abuses and the suppression of free speech, and is pilloried for paranoia as he regularly reshuffles his government.

Read more on:    yahya jammeh  |  gambia  |  west africa

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