As government prepares to reform the laws of the small nation, Gambia’s justice minister says he believes death penalty has no place in a democracy.
As Gambians argue the best path for the building of a democracy after two decades rule of strongman Yahya Jammeh, its Justice minister Bubacarr Tambedou, said death penalty should be removed from the country’s statute books.
Gambians went to polls on December 1 where a former property developer Adama Barrow emerged a winner, promising sweeping legal and institutional reforms.
“I believe that the death penalty should be repealed. I think it has no place in any progressive democracy,” Tambedou, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, told The Torch.
“That is my view and it is a view that I will encourage the government as a whole to embrace. And I am working, in collaboration with all my cabinet colleagues, on ensuring that the death penalty is no longer in our statute books.”
Tambedou was speaking in an exclusive interview with The Torch following a meeting with the president of Gambia Press Union, Bai Emil Touray.
Touray visited the former war crimes prosecutor to discuss issues of media law reforms that the new government intends to embark on and how the Union might play a part it that process.
Death penalty has been on Gambia’s statute books but a moratorium was placed on it after one man was executed in 1985.
In August 201 2, the small nation’s eccentric leader Jammeh who walks around with a prayer beads, Quran and a sword, lifted the moratorium and killed nine dead row prisoners causing international outrage.
“Bad media laws have no place in our statute books and it is the resolve of this government to enact laws that will facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in a responsible manner,” Tambedou assured the GPU boss.
“So media law reform is certainly a priority for this ministry during this transition period. We will be reaching out to the Gambia Press Union and other national and international organizations with an interest in the rights to freedom of expression to fine the best laws for the country.
“I can assure you that any media law that is inconsistent with the letter of the spirit of the constitution shall not be enforced… So if the Criminal Defamation and the sedition are not in accord with the letter and the spirit of the constitution, then certainly we will not pursue any cases in that regard.”
He however said a priority area in terms of reforms in the country will be the criminal justice system.
“There are many areas to reform but a priority for my ministry will be the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system has been used in bad faith in several instances. People have been maliciously prosecuted and others for the wrong reasons,” he told The Torch.
“The criminal justice has been abused to a point that it is no longer credible and that is a top priority for my ministry.”