Gambia's opposition leader Ousainou Darboe called Saturday for international sanctions against President Yahya Jammeh if reports that he has begun executing death row prisoners prove true.
"It's time to the international community to take measures that will make Jammeh conform with accepted international standards," United Democratic Party chief Darboe told AFP.
Amnesty International said Friday that nine prisoners sentenced to death had been executed, less than a week after Jammeh pledged to hang all those awaiting execution, estimated to number nearly 50, by the middle of August.
The first hangings, unconfirmed by Banjul, were reported to have taken place only a day after the African Union sent a special envoy to plead with Jammeh not to carry them out.
"I have never throughout my carrier as a politician asked the international community to take any hard measures against the Gambia, but I want to appeal to the international community, that if Jammeh carries the executions, it should order a travel ban for him and all his ministers," Darboe said.
He said that Jammeh should be "thinking about how to secure food for Gambians, providing them with healthcare, better education and how to improve the living standard of the people rather than telling them he is going to execute people."
Amnesty International said Friday that it had "received credible reports that nine persons were executed last night (Thursday) in Gambia and that more persons are under threat of imminent executions today and in the coming days."
A Gambian security source told AFP that all death row prisoners had on Thursday night been "transferred to one place" but he and other sources could not confirm the executions.
"The man is determined to execute the prisoners and he will do so," the security source told AFP, referring to President Jammeh.
The president's office said in a statement late Friday that those on death row "have exhausted all their legal rights of appeal as provided by the law" -- without, however, confirming the nine executions.
In a televised address to mark this year's Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr on Sunday Jammeh said: "By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter.
"There is no way my government will allow 99 percent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals."
According to Amnesty those executed include one woman and two Senegalese citizens.
Jammeh, a former military officer who seized power in a 1994 coup, brooks no dissent in a country often blasted by rights bodies for abuses.
Many top officials have found themselves charged with treason, often related to coup plots which observers have said are a sign of paranoia by Jammeh, who won a fourth term in office in November 2011.
Last year eight military top brass, including the former army and intelligence chiefs and the ex-deputy head of the police force, were sentenced to death for treason.
Amnesty urged Gambian authorities to "immediately halt any further possible executions".
But Friday's government statement said: "The general public is hereby warned that the peace and the stability of the Gambia ... must at all costs be preserved and jealously guarded."© ANP/AFP