Despite a 27-year hiatus on the practice of carrying out executions, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's promise to carry out all death sentences by mid-September has resulted in nine prisoners being executed by a firing squad on Thursday.
According to a Xinhua report, President Jammeh announced his plan to carry out the death sentence for all 47 prisoners currently on death row by mid-September on August 18th.
The report says Jammeh announced his intentions to the nation, saying: "All punishment prescribed by the law will maintain in the country to ensure that criminals get what they deserve, that is, those who killed are killed and those who deserve to be put away from the society are put away from the society in accordance with the law. There is no way that my government would allow 99 percent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals. Our objective is to create a peaceful, happy and crime free nation, where the standard of living will be excellent for all citizens."
On Friday, Amnesty International issued a statement saying they had received "credible reports" that nine prisoners were executed on August 23rd. The statement goes on to say that one of those executed was a woman, two were reported to have been Senegalese and three had been sentenced for treason.
All Africa reported Jammeh's office issued a statement late Friday saying that all the prisoners on death row had exhausted every appeal rights provided to them by law. It went on to say that all the prisoners had been "tried by courts of competence jurisdiction and sentenced to death."
According to BBC News, many of those that are on Gambia's death row are former top military officers and government officials who were arrested for treason in 1994 during the coup that put Jammeh into power.
Capitol punishment can be imposed on those convicted of various crimes in Gambia, including murder and treason. CNN cites a 2010 report from Reprieve, a British human rights group, that said anyone found with more than 250 grams of cocaine or heroin can also be sentenced to death.
The Daily Nation says it is not uncommon for people to be charged with treason in Gambia. Many top Gambian officials have been charged for plotting coups to outs Jammeh. Last year alone eight top military officials, of one which was the former deputy head of the police force and one was a former army and intelligence chief, received a death sentence for treason.
Catherine Ashton, The European Union's foreign policy chief, urged the Gambian government to stop the executions immediately, while African Union chair, Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi, sent his foreign minister to Gambia to warn Jammeh not to carry out any executions says BBC News.