[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [official website; press release] on Friday urged the government of Gambia to allow time for seven men facing execution to make the maximum use of the appellate process after the Gambia Supreme Court [official website] upheld their convictions for treason. Because the court’s ruling was handed down on a Friday afternoon the convicted men, who include former Chief of Defense Staff Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba and other former officers, will have to wait until Monday to appeal the decision. The men were convicted and sentenced to death in 2010. AI argues that this is contrary to Section 18(2) Gambian Constitution [text, PDF], which only allows for execution of those who are convicted of a crime resulting in the killing of another person. AI West Africa Program Director Lucy Freeman further urged the Gambian government to uphold its current moratorium on the death penalty and not to execute the convicts:
The Gambian government must not carry out any executions, and commute as a matter of urgency the death sentences of the seven men — and all death row inmates. They must also uphold the moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
Gambia Supreme Court decisions are usually able to be reviewed by a panel of seven judges.
Gambia had not put anyone to death for nearly three decades before August 23, when nine prisoners were secretly taken from their cells and executed by firing squad. Last month Gambian President Yahya Jamme [official website] implemented an “conditional” moratorium on executions as a result of international pressure after the government ended the previous 27-year moratorium with the August firing squad executions [JURIST report], which included eight men and one woman. A few days before executing the nine prisoners Jamme caused an international outcry when he announced [CNN report] that he planned to execute all death row inmates by September. Jamme has stated that the current moratorium will be automatically lifted if crime rates increase.