FOLLOWING perceived violations of fundamental human rights to life and fair hearing in The Gambia, a coalition of civil societies in the country has filed an application before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court for remedy.
The suit was filed by Civil Society Associations of Gambia (CSAG) on behalf of the 38 death row inmates at the country’s Mile 2 Central Prisons.
Also, on behalf of the families of the executed death row inmates, CSAG is requesting for a total of CFA500,000 million (about $1million).
The civil society groups are requesting the ECOWAS Court to “order the Republic of The Gambia to comply with the rights and principles of the African charter on human rights, stop executing death sentences, and stop pronouncing death sentences.”
The charters, laws and conventions which the Gambian government is alleged to be violating, according to the groups, include the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Customary International law, Peremptory Norms of International Law, General Principles of Law Recognised by civilised nations, the Prohibition of the Death Penalty, the Right to Life, the Prohibition of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading treatment, the Principle of Legality of Criminal Offences and Penalties as well as Right to a Fair Trial provision.
Yesterday’s suit at the ECOWAS Court of Justice was filed by the CSAG Chairman, Banka Manneh and secretary, Ndey Tapha Sosseh.
The CSAG is praying the ECOWAS Court of Justice to:
·adjudge and declare that the maintenance of all death row inmates in death row is likely to perpetuate the said violations;
· adjudge and declare that the execution of these detainees would violate the aforementioned texts; and
·adjudge and declare that the affirmation of these principles and rights is an obstacle to future death sentences.
The civil society groups further said: “Considering that the secret executions of nine of the 48 death row inmates by the Government of the Gambia is cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Also aware that the executed detainees did not communicate with their families, lawyers and that family members did not bid farewell, or know the date of the executions or burial of their loved ones; CSAG considers this a violation of the right to private and family life and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’’
In this context, CSAG has asked the court to order the Republic of The Gambia to respect the right of families to visit prisoners on death row.”
With regards to families of the already executed death row inmates, the CSAG asked the ECOWAS Court to “order the Republic of The Gambia to deliver to the families of the nine executed inmates, their bodies so that they can give them a decent burial, organise religious ceremonies which are necessary in such circumstances.”
In view of the urgency of the situation, CSAG also filed an application for speedy proceedings and requested that as a preventive measure, the court should grant an injunction on Government of Gambia to the effect that that during the process, no death row inmate shall be executed in the country.
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