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Gambia President Announces Moratorium on Death Penalty

FILE - Gambia's new president Adama Barrow talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Dakar, Senegal.

Gambia's president has declared a moratorium on the death penalty, calling it a "first step toward abolition."

President Adama Barrow announced the moratorium while addressing a large crowd gathered Sunday for the country's independence anniversary.

This tiny West African nation is emerging from 22 years of dictatorship that were marked by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Gambia made headlines in August 2012 when ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh defied international appeals when he ordered the execution of nine prisoners on death row saying it was a move to curb the country's rising crime rate.

Now Barrow's one-year-old government has begun judicial and constitutional reforms. The parliament is in the process of enacting legislation to establish a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission and a Human Rights Commission.