We the members of the Community of Gambian/Gambianist scholars are deeply shocked by reports that your government has executed nine death-row inmates and threatens to execute all death-row inmates by the end of September 2012. Equally disturbing is the report that your government has executed these prisoners under cloud of secrecy and without prior notice to the inmates or their families or independent observers to ascertain that the process meets internationally accepted standards.
We regard the ending of the 27-year-old moratorium on executions in Gambia as a serious retreat to establishing Gambia as a proud member of civilized nations. Not only are the executions a breach of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Gambia is both a signatory and a host to the African Commission–the Charter’s implementation agency, it also goes against resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007(A/RES/62/149), 2008(A/RES/63/168), and 2010(A/RES/63/168).
It is worth recalling also, that Gambia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the statute that is fundamentally associated with the affirmation of the right to life. More importantly, the last 27 years of the moratorium has shown that successive governments including yours, have managed to keep even the most violent criminals from causing further harm to society, thus making the argument for lifting the moratorium totally unconvincing. There is also an emerging consensus that the death penalty is not an effective deterrence to violent crime.
In light of the above, and in our desire for Gambia to fulfill its obligations under international law, we kindly ask your government to:
i. Halt future executions by immediately imposing the moratorium and initiate dialogue with the National Assembly with the view to repeal the death penalty law.
ii. Return the bodies of the executed to their families for proper burial as a good-will gesture towards a national healing process.
iii. Allow independent agencies and humanitarian bodies such as the International Red Cross and Crescent, Amnesty International, and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to visit the remaining death-row inmates to affirm your government’s commitment to no future executions.
iv. Dispatch a senior government delegation to Senegal to initiate a repair of relations in the wake of the executions of two of their nationals.
We believe these steps are needed for Gambia to regain her rightful place among those nations who do not only aspire that justice is served, but work to see that it is served with compassion. To quote those sacred words of our national anthem, “we...pray, that all may live in unity, freedom and peace each day. Let justice guide our actions towards the common good.”
We thank you for receiving our petition and look forward to your consideration of our suggested action plan.
Community of Gambian/Gambianist scholars
Nine death-row inmates were executed in Gambia and further 38 are being threatened with the same. Although the death penalty is used in many countries, the absence of transparent due processes and competent judicial institutions, coupled with ambiguous constitutional provisions relating to the death penalty, make it unsafe for its continued retention in Gambia.