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Last updated at 13:37 BST, Friday, 31 August 2012

Executions in The Gambia

Summary

31 August 2012

The President of the West African state of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, is looking increasingly isolated because of his threat to execute all death row prisoners by the middle of September. Nine have been executed by firing squad already, provoking loud protests from abroad.

Reporter:

Mark Doyle

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh

President Yahya Jammeh has repeatedly been criticised for his human rights record.

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Report

A grim lottery is being played out on death row in The Gambia. Human rights groups say at least 38 more convicts are threatened with imminent execution, following the threat by President Yayah Jammeh to kill them all by the middle of September. Amnesty International says many of the inmates had unfair trials. Some are convicted of mounting coup plots. President Jammeh himself came to power in a military coup in 1994.

Protests about the executions came from the usual human rights groups and the United Nations. But African countries have sent envoys to try to stop the executions as well. And the killings of the two Senegalese citizens threatens to cause a full scale diplomatic row between the two nations.

The use of the death penalty is extremely rare in West Africa these days - indeed Amnesty International says that according to its records, no executions have been carried out in the region for several years. It is also increasingly rare to have soldiers like Yayah Jammeh in power in Africa. In recent years the African Union has condemned leaders who came to power through coups.

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Vocabulary

grim

depressing

death row

a prison block or section for prisoners sentenced to death

imminent

soon to happen

mounting

arranging or setting up

coup plots

secret plans to make a sudden and illegal seizure of power from the government

envoys

representatives

full scale

major

row

argument

rare

unlikely to happen

condemned

completely disapproved of