Wednesday, 05 September 2012 15:46(Column) – An American industrialist and pioneer of the assembly-line production method, Henry Ford, once said: “Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty.”
This was right in the 18th Century and is still right in the 21st Century. The death penalty has no place in any civilised society, especially ours where people have a close family relationship and almost know each other.
It is this reason why despite suffering from a severe common cold which is making me to almost sneeze my brain out, I wish to join my Gambian brothers and sisters many of whom have taken to the streets of London and America today, in condemning the execution by a firing squad of nine death row prisoners who were detained at the Mile Two and Jeshwang Prisons.
As more details of the executions emerge, I am shock to learn that although the decision to kill the prisoners was made by Mr Yahya Jammeh days in advance; they and their families were never informed.
Instead, they were dragged from their prison cells by armed soldiers wearing balaclavas and gunned down in the middle of the night without giving them the opportunity to say goodbye to their families.
I agree that all the executed prisoners, including a 27-year-old mentally ill-man were sentenced to death by the Gambian courts of ‘competent jurisdiction’ and had ‘exhausted’ all their appeals.
I also agree that their execution on the directives of Mr Jammeh was in accordance with the dictates of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia. But what have the government and Mr Jammeh achieved in staining their hands with the blood of people it said had committed ‘heinous crimes’?
Why has Mr Jammeh, a man who portrays himself as a devout Muslim, most merciful and most caring Gambian decided to be an agent of Malaikat Maut (the Angel of Death)?
Why has Mr Jammeh, a man who was conferred with the Islamic title Nasiru Deen for his ‘strong and outstanding stance in the promotion of Islam in the country’ decided to lower his integrity by punishing criminals by the same heinous acts they committed?
Is Mr Jammeh happy to know that one of the executed prisoner, Buba Yarboe, was mentally ill and was receiving psychiatric treatment at the time he took the life of his own mother? Is he happy that he has the blood of a mentally ill man on his hands?
As a Muslim society which preaches mercy and forgiveness, I believe that it is morally wrong to punish criminals with the same act they criminally committed.
We have no moral ground to stand on if we take the life of a murderer, as killing a murderer simply turns us into murderers too.
For example, rape and paedophilia is condemned in every society. But in as much as rapist and paedophiles are hated, no society has ever recommended raping a rapist or sexually assaulting a paedophile as a punishment. If we believe that raping a rapist or sexually assaulting a paedophile is morally wrong, then how could we be so callous about executing a murderer?
Before you start moaning, I am not in anyway suggesting that we should take a soft approach to crime, no. But I want the government of Yahya Jammeh to start focusing seriously on the country’s social problems, which is the root cause of many of these ‘heinous crimes’.
As I stated some months ago when the then Gambian director of Public Prosecution, Richard Chenge, sough the death penalty against General Lang Tombong Tamba and others, I am completely against the death penalty and is deeply concern at Mr Jammeh’s decision to implement such a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment as a way to 'curb crimes and terrorism looming as a threat to the country's stability'.
While I agree that crime is on the increase in the Gambia, we are making a mistake by thinking that we would be able to cut the homicide rate in the country by just executing anyone who is guilty of murder.
Capital punishment has never worked and will never be the right approach to tackle the rising murder rates in the Gambia.
I completely agree with the argument of Abner Mikva, former Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC that: “It is very hard to find any empirical evidence that our societal security is strengthened by the use of capital punishment. States that have wielded the death penalty with vigour have crime rates as high or higher than states that have never authorised the death penalty. Despite many efforts to do so, it has proven almost impossible to quantify the efficacy of capital punishment. ... The main function of the death penalty is to vent societal spleen against those who commit certain heinous crimes.”
Mr Jammeh has not done himself any good by ordering the execution of the prisoners. Even his allies and supporters have began to see him as a savage man who is not fit to continue running the affairs of our great country.
Jammeh has screwed himself up so so bad this time round, and judging by the anger of the Gambian people, I fear that the end of his regime is very near.
To quote Lord Sir Alan Sugar, I say my brother from another mother, you are fired!
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