The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) has expressed its deep concern over the recent use of the death penalty in the execution of nine death row prison inmates in The Gambia on 23rd August 2012. The CSO in a statement by its Executive Chair Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim said while the government of the Gambia remains dogged and affirmative in its stance on the use of the death penalty, relevant provisions of the country’s legal codes remain controversial, at best, contestable, or even illegal.
Meanwhile,said the statement, subsequent developments reveal a general displeasure of the citizens of The Gambia, as well as the international community’s disdain, with the death row executions. It is therefore unmistakably evident, that the use of the Death Penalty in the Gambia is not only wrong, but fundamentally negating to the essence of the social contract between the government and the citizens of the Republic of The Gambia.
Addressing that situation, WACSOF enumerated five key issues:First, the CSO said “the use of the death penalty by the government of the Gambia is clearly in breach of the legal codes of the Republic of The Gambia and relevant international legal norms on human rights, and it amounts to a regression of the Gambia’s government on its commitments under international law. While Section 18 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, which sanctions the Death Penalty, is arguably inchoate, the use of the Death Penalty fundamentally disregards Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the inviolable right to life and dignity of the human person. Also, the use of the Death Penalty in The Gambia is a tremendous regression on the moratorium on the use of the Death Penalty, which the country has maintained since 1985, a commitment which was renewed as late as 2010 – within the context of the country’s acquiescence to the Human Right Council’s Universal Periodic Universal procedure.”
Second WACSOF said “the Execution of the nine inmates on 23rd August 2012 and the communicated intentions of the government of The Gambia to execute all those on death row by mid-September 2012 are a display of utter callousness, barbarism and inhumanity, and the lack of respect for the universal principles on human rights. Evidence shows that much of the people on death row in the Gambia are there for political reasons, mostly linked to both substantive and alleged coup plots; while the trials as well as executions of the death row inmates were far from being transparent and did not follow due process as they were carried out in secret, away from the eyes of the public. The fact that the families of the victims did not have access to the dead bodies of their loved ones for appropriate burial will surely increase their burden of grief and sense of loss. The other planned executions on the other hand will further display a total disregard by the Gambian government for the feelings and aspirations of its citizens, and a disrespect for the universal principles sanctioning the obligation of governments to protect the human rights of citizens, held dear among the comity of nations.”
Third,WACSOF added that “The Gambian Civil Society must lead the people of the Gambia in opposing their government’s disregard for the fundamental rights to life and dignity of person of its citizens, and hold the government accountable for guaranteeing the security for its people. The people of the Gambia must rise up to challenge the insensitivity of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, which has seen the once envious human rights records of the country steadily declining over the years. The civil society in The Gambia, must stand as a vanguard for freedom, justice and democracy, by consulting with the relevant political stakeholders in the country, including the National Assembly as well as the judiciary, to step-up to their statutory responsibilities, rather than laying dormant while President Jammeh’s government continue to trample upon the rights of the citizens of the Republic of The Gambia. Civil society in The Gambia must constructively engage the situation with the aim of achieving long lasting peace, security and stability in the country”
Fourthe the CSO said “The entire international Community must continue to engage the government of the Republic of The Gambia towards speedily addressing the issue of the use of the Death penalty. Although United Nations (UN) has communicated its displeasure with the Death penalty executions in The Gambia, through its High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the European Union has expressed the possibility of placing sanctions on The Gambia, more action needs to be done to bring The Gambia back to its previous envious record for the observance of standards on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) must do their parts in calling the Gambian government to order, as The Gambia is a member of their primary constituencies, by invoking the relevant sections of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Failure to critically address the problem may send the wrong signals to other countries across the West African region and even across the globe. The international community must further constructively engage with, and assist the Government of The Gambia in reviewing its penal codes and strengthening appropriate institutions towards the achievement of a balance human rights system in the country, in order to achieve a lasting solution to the plummeting human right records of the country.
Fifth,it said “WACSOF will continue to liaise with the relevant partners, both on the ground in The Gambia, and at the international level to ensure that the rights of the people of The Gambia are protected against arbitrariness and autocracy. WACSOF sees the event of the execution of nine death row inmates in the Gambia as an indicator of the bigger problem of autocratic and dictatorial rulership of President Yahya Jammeh of The Republic of The Gambia. We therefore use this medium to draw the attention of all critical stakeholders to the precarious conditions that the civil society and the citizenry of The Gambia are faced with. While the government is repressive, the governance structures are manned by corrupt officials. Fighting such a situation will require the combined effort of both the local actors as well as external support. We therefore commit to supporting the Gambian people in engaging their government towards obtaining appropriate protection from affronts on their fundamental rights and freedoms, and enjoin all well-meaning individuals and organizations globally to join hands in supporting that process.”
Finally , WACSOF strongly urged the government of the Republic of The Gambia to desist from further use of the Death Penalty in dispensing it “jungle justice” techniques, as it is an uncivilized and utterly unacceptable in the contemporary global community.