A Gambian human rights attorney has expressed concern about a proposed law, which if enacted will lead to harsher punishment including execution of anyone caught holding more than 250g of cocaine or heroin.
Attorney Assan Martin said human rights defenders do not support the new measure which introduces the death penalty for drug offences in Gambia.
“As lawyers or any other person, we never supported any drug trafficking or drug trafficking activities by any syndicate. But, the issue whereby there would be death penalty for anybody, we do not support the death penalty to be part of the penalties for such.”
Martin said the penalty for any drug offenses could be “for life imprisonment if he is caught” instead of the death penalty that the person will face under the new measure introduced by the government.
Gambian President Yahyah Jammeh has vowed to clamp down on drug trafficking, saying he would rather die than allow some “misguided elements” to use The Gambia as a drug zone.
Gambia has reportedly seen an upsurge of drug trafficking with the country often being used as a transit point for illicit drugs coming from Latin American countries.
Attorney general, Edward Anthony Gomez told Gambia’s parliament that the new measure aims at combating the illicit drug trafficking menace in the West African nation.
Political observers have often accused top officials of Gambia’s National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) of failing to tackle the drug problem. They accused the officials of being too “cozy” with alleged drug traffickers.
Local media quoted attorney general Gomez as saying “the devastating impact of these activities on the stability and development of any state cannot be overemphasized. “
In June this year, security agents seized about two tones of cocaine with an estimated street value of $1billion. The drugs were reportedly bound for Europe.
Attorney Martin said there is a possibility that innocent people could be executed for crimes they have not committed.
“The fear is that an innocent person may also suffer or may end up being a victim. We don’t support anything of collective punishment of both the innocent and the guilty”.
Meanwhile, some analysts say the government could use the new measure to further suppress the opposition or dissenting views.