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Gambia president halts executions amid international pressure

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh [official website] announced Friday that he will implement an indefinite moratorium on executions due to "numerous appeals." The international community was very critical of Jammeh when he executed nine prisoners [JURIST report] last month after vowing to execute all death row inmates by the middle of September, ending a 27-year moratorium on executions in the country. Jammeh said [BBC report] Friday that the moratorium will remain in place as long as violent crime rates decline, but will be lifted of violent crime rates increase. This leaves the fate of 37 prisoners who remain on death row in the country still undetermined.

The issue of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] continues to be debated in countries throughout the world, and Gambia's recent executions added fuel to the fire. At the end of last month the UN encouraged Gambia [JURIST report] to reinstate an immediate moratorium on the death penalty. In July Singapore went the other direction, announcing plans to relax mandatory death sentences [JURIST report] for drug trafficking and murder. A week earlier UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called on all member states to abolish capital punishment [JURIST report]. Human rights groups have also researched the topic, and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network [advocacy website] released a report in December that showed the Asia-Pacific region executes more people [JURIST report] than the rest of the world.

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