Gambia announces moratorium on death penalty

BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambian President Adama Barrow on Sunday announced a moratorium on the death penalty as the West African country rebuilds its international standing following the removal last year of its longtime authoritarian ruler Yahya Jammeh.

Capital punishment is on the decline across Africa, where governments executed 22 people in 2016 compared to 43 the previous year, according to Amnesty International.

“I will use this opportunity to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in The Gambia, as a first step towards abolition,” Barrow said in a speech to mark the 53rd anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain.

Jammeh, who fled Gambia a year ago after losing his latest re-election bid, drew international criticism in 2012 when his government abruptly executed nine prisoners by firing squad.

Since taking office a year ago, Barrow has tried to repair damage done to Gambia’s reputation by Jammeh’s 23-year rule, which was marked by human rights abuses and spats with foreign governments.

Earlier this month, Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth, which Jammeh withdrew from in 2013, calling it a “neo-colonial institution”.

Reporting By Pap Saine; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Catherine Evans