SERAP urges Pres Jonathan to stop Gambia from executing Nigerians on death row

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a public urgent appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan urging him to use “his position and the country’s influence within the ECOWAS to urgently prevail on the Gambian authorities not to execute two Nigerian and over 30 Gambians on death row in the Gambia.

The appeal by SERAP followed reports by Amnesty International on Sunday that at least 9 of the 47 death row prisoners have already been secretly executed. President Yahya Jammeh had vowed to kill all 47 death row inmates by next month, in a national speech to mark the Muslim festival of Eid. According to Amnesty International, more persons are under threat of imminent executions in the coming days.

SERAP in a public statement dated 27 August 2012 and signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, stated that, “We are seriously concerned that following very credible reports of execution of 9 death row prisoners by the Gambian authorities two Nigerians and over 30 Gambians are now facing imminent threat of execution. The Nigerian president must urgently act to stop this unlawful and arbitrary killing by the state of Gambia before it is too late.”

*Jonathan

“To be sure, the threat of execution by the Gambian President amounts to a multiple violations of the of the death row prisoners’ right to life and fair trial rights guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted by both the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly,” the organization also stated.

According to the organization, “Under section 81(4) of the Gambian Constitution the Gambian parliament must adopt a memorandum of execution before any execution can take place. We are fully aware that no such memorandum has so far been adopted. Similarly, most of the cases of those executed or about to be executed are still pending on appeal.”

“The only way now to stop the imminent execution of the two Nigerians and the Gambians is for President Jonathan to publicly ask the Gambian authorities to abide by their international legal obligations and halt any unlawful secret execution. If there is a clear case for the Nigerian President to protect Nigerians abroad, this is it,” the organization added.

“In the Gambia, human rights of citizens and foreign nationals, including Nigerians continue to be violated with impunity. Yet, justice is based on respect for the rights of every individual. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it, ”recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. The Declaration also provides that ”[e]veryone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing… of any criminal charge” and ”[e]veryone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial,” the organization also argued.

According to the organization, “The right to a fair trial is a fundamental safeguard to assure that individuals are not unjustly punished. It is indispensable for the protection of other human rights such as the right to freedom from torture and the right to life.  However, when people are subjected to unfair trials, justice cannot be served.”

It would be recalled that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its 44th Ordinary Session in Abuja, Nigeria, in November 2008 adopted a resolution calling on African States, including the Gambia, that still retain the death penalty to “observe a moratorium on the execution of death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty.” The resolution expresses concerns about “the failure of some African states [including Gambia] to give effect to the UN resolutions and African Commission’s own 1999 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions”, and about the application of “the death penalty in conditions not respectful of the right to a fair trial guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant international norms”.

The resolution also asked AU member states, including Gambia that still retain the death penalty to: fully comply with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and guarantee to every person accused of crimes for which capital punishment is applicable, fair trial standards; and to include in their periodic reports information on the steps they are taking to move towards the abolition of the death penalty in their countries. The resolution is similar to the one adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in 2007.

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