April 23, 2014

Senegal President Macky Sall calls for halt to Gambia death row executions

Reuters – Senegalese President Macky Sall has joined international appeals for neighbouring Gambia to halt a series of planned executions of death-row prisoners.

He confirmed yesterday that two of the nine who have already faced the firing squad were Senegalese.

The executions, more of which are planned in coming weeks, have the potential to upset delicate ties between the two neighbours just as Sall wants Gambian cooperation to end the separatist conflict in Senegal’s Casamance region.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh vowed this month to execute all of the more than 40 death-row inmates by mid-September, “to ensure that these criminals get what they deserve”.

This has drawn condemnation from the African Union, the EU, Britain and rights groups.

“Macky Sall calls for an urgent stay of execution for all the cases,” a statement issued by his office said.

On Monday, Gambia confirmed that it had executed six civilians and three members of the army for a variety of crimes that it said all involved murder.

Sall said a third Senegalese was still to face the firing squad.

Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, has long faced criticism of his rights record. in a country that attracts sun-seekers with its tropical climate and white beaches.

Until now, Gambia has rarely used its death penalty.

British rights group Amnesty said the last execution there had been in 1985.

It is not known why Jammeh, who won re-election last year in a poll that regional groups said was marked by intimidation of voters and opponents, is pressing ahead with executions now.

One of Africa’s most controversial rulers, Jammeh announced in 2007 that he had a herbal concoction that cured Aids, but only on Thursdays, a statement derided by health experts.

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