12 July 2018 :
Gambia government has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee that the country is working on plans to repeal its law enforcing death penalty thus commuting the sentences of those on death row to life sentences.
Gambia has death penalty in its statute books but President Adama Barrow and justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou has expressed intentions to repeal the law.
Since the last execution of country’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh few years ago, there has been a moratorium on the practice.
“Currently, there are twenty-three (23) prisoners sentenced to death, out of which twenty one (21) were convicted for murder; one (1) for unlawfully causing death and one (1) for manslaughter. All these offences are punishable by death penalty,” Gambia said in its submission to the UN rights committee.
“…Since the death penalty is provided for in the Constitution, its abolition will involve a constitutional amendment. Given the ongoing Constitutional review process, it is expected that the political commitment to abolish the death penalty will be given Constitutional validity in the new Constitution.”
Gambia is among 171 countries across the world that are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the country faces the UN rights watchdog every four years for review.
A team of Government delegates led by solicitor general Cherno Marenah was in Geneva on July 5 and 6 to respond to queries raised by the rights watchdogs.
The Gambian leader has signed the second additional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty in September 2017 at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
In his speech at the 53rd independence celebration of the Gambia on February 18th 2018, the President officially announced a moratorium on the application of the death penalty and commuted the sentences of all persons on death row to life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the Gambian government has also made a commitment to criminalise torture.
Accordingly, the Gambia has already initiated moves to complete the process of accession to the Convention against Torture before the end of 2018.
The criminal justice reform program undertaken by the Government specifically has the mandate to include torture as part of our criminal laws.