Gambia, in West Africa, had declined on Friday to confirm or deny an Amnesty International report saying that nine of its 47 death row inmates had been killed overnight on Thursday.
President Yahya Jammeh said in a speech last Monday that he planned to execute all of the country’s death row inmates by mid-September.
“I strongly condemn the executions which have reportedly taken place on Thursday 23 August 2012, following President Jammeh’s stated intention to carry out all death penalties before mid-September,” EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement. “I demand the immediate halt of the executions.”
The European Union has previously condemned death sentences passed in Gambia, but Sunday’s statement went further by indicating that action might follow.
“In light of these executions, the European Union will urgently consider an appropriate response,” Ashton said. She reminded Gambia of a commitment to respect human rights in an accord between the bloc and a number of African countries.
The EU opposes the death penalty worldwide and frequently issues statements asking countries to halt executions, but the language it used in Sunday’s statement was far stronger than usual, showing particular concern over Gambia’s rapid killings.
EU aid to Gambia is currently scheduled at 65.4 million euros under the current version of the European Development Fund, which lasts from 2008 to 2013. The aid funds projects in areas such as infrastructure and governance.
Jammeh’s speech – in which he said the executions would “ensure that criminals get what they deserve” – has already drawn condemnation from the African Union and Great Britain.
Amnesty said in a press release issued on Friday it had “credible reports” that nine people, including two Senegalese nationals, were removed from their prison cells overnight Thursday and executed. Three of the reported executed had been sentenced for treason, it said. Reuters