Commute death sentences, Jammeh told

2012-09-17 09:00

Dakar - Gambia's president insisted Sunday he would not bow to pressure over his country's use of capital punishment as the opposition urged him to commute death sentences.

President Yahya Jammeh announced on Friday he was imposing a moratorium on executions, after coming under intense criticism for the firing squad killing of nine convicts last month.

On Sunday, main opposition leader Ousainou Darboe called on Jammeh to go further and commute death sentences to life in prison.

Darboe told AFP that the decision to halt executions came "as a result of serious international pressure and it was right that the government has responded in a mature way to the outcry."

But "I think he should go further than this and commute the sentences of all those on death row to life imprisonment", said Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party that was defeated by Jammeh in last year's election.

The president, however, insisted he would not be told what to do.

"Do I look like somebody who will bow down to human pressure? No way," Jammeh told thousands of Gambian youths gathered in his home village of Kanilai to show support for executions.

In his first public reaction to the furor over the executions, broadcast on state television, Jammeh referenced BBC coverage of the issue, saying he would "never bow down to outside pressure or pressure from any group," citing the European Union as an example.


According to Jammeh's office, international pressure had played a part in the decision to suspend executions, including from Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Senegal.

The execution of nine convicts by firing squad on 29 August followed an announcement 10 days earlier by Jammeh that the country planned to execute all death row prisoners by mid-September.

Two Senegalese were among the nine executed last month.

Rights groups estimate another 38 convicts face firing squad deaths in the small west African country where Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, rules with an iron fist and tolerates no criticism.

The president, who claims he can cure Aids and other illnesses, is often accused of rights abuses and muzzling journalists.

Amnesty International has condemned Gambia's increasing use of the death penalty over the past few years, claiming that some people have been sentenced for crimes of a political nature and suffered torture and harsh treatment to extract "confessions".

All those sentenced to death for treason should be pardoned Darboe urged, saying "the convictions of some of these people were politically motivated".

Among the political prisoners are a former army chief, an ex-intelligence chief, a former deputy police chief, as well as businessmen and soldiers.

  • richard.zanner - 2012-09-17 09:33

    Death Penalty has always been an issue that I have not been able to come to terms with but seeing the brutality of crimes in this country I have come to believe that it is the only way to create a deterrent strong enough to dissuade this brutality. Having said this such sentences must be after a proper trial. This article seems to suggest that the people sentenced to death may have not had a proper trial but were tortured into confessions which again is nothing but murder on the part of the State for it's own dictatorial reasons as Yahya is also nothing but a dictator.

  • roy.wadhams.1 - 2012-09-17 10:08

    Good on you Mr President. A pity we cannot use the death penalty in South Africa to rid our society of people who kill the elderly,farmers,children etc. You are not safe in your own homes and if you kill someone breaking in you are the guilty one. To many criminals are being let loose from our prisons to go right back to crime.

  • gieljam.gomtor - 2012-09-17 10:21

    Hope this President who is a courageous leader sticks to his decision.The world will definitely be better off with out these murderers and scumbags

  • crismoyo - 2012-09-17 10:30

    I fully support you President Jameh. We need to eliminate brutal murderers

  • ludlowdj - 2012-09-17 12:16

    Yes stop killing people didn't you know only the US is allowed to do as it pleases?

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