By: Modou Touray
Human rights advocates have made a unanimous call for the abolition of the death penalty in the Gambia, expressing concerns that moratorium on executions is not reliable because presidential decision can change at any time. They argue that capital punishment is not in conformity with universal human rights standards.
The abolition of the death penalty in the Gambia was the theme of the first panel discussion organized by Amnesty International, Kanifing Municipality chapter meant to remind the State of its commitment to abolish the death penalty.
Muhammad Hydara, who leads the team of campaigners, justified that no human being should be sentenced to death, calling on national assembly members to put pressure on the government to enact laws regarding the abolishment of the death penalty.
Reacting to Mr Hydara, the national assembly member for Latrikunda, Hon Yahya Sanyang clarified that the abolition of the death penalty is not applicable under the current constitution.
“Death penalty is entrenched in the 1997 constitution therefore the national assembly cannot do anything about that. The issue is tackled in the draft constitution which was thrown out by the former legislature. Our oversight mandate doesn’t permit us to force the executive to bring back the draft constitution.”
Responding to questions from the audience, the national assembly member for Busumbala and chairperson of the national assembly select committee for human rights and constitutional matters, Hon Muhammad Kanteh gave assurance that the assembly might consider the draft constitutional this time.
In accordance with protocols, bills presented under the former legislature cannot be forwarded to the current legislature.
The Amnesty international Kanifing Municipality chapter members and other human rights advocates had interactive discussions with relevant stakeholders with questions to clarify issues surrounding the abolition of the eath penalty.
In her response, Madam Rakey Duanda, a state counsel who represented the Ministry of Justice at the forum, promised to give feedback to his ministry concerning the discussion.
“When I get back to my ministry, I shall find out at what stage the relevant bills are and ensure that they are tabled before the national assembly,” she assured.
Sohna Jaw, a member of the Gambia Bar Association, noted that the Bar Association has been an active advocate for human rights and the abolition of the death penalty and promised that the momentum will continue.
Mr Mansour Jobe of the national human rights commission said they will not relent on their advocacy and engagement on criminal offences and criminal procedure bills.
In February 2018, President Adama Barrow declared a moratorium on executions. Gambia ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at abolishing the death penalty thus becoming the 86th state party to the treaty.