Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has ordered the suspension of executions for prisoners on death row amid intense international criticism.
"The general public at home and abroad is hereby informed that President Yahya Jammeh has decided to put a moratorium on executions as a result of numerous appeals to that effect from the council of elders, women groups as well as youth groups across the country," Jammeh’s office said in a statement published on Saturday.
Nine people have been executed since the president’s decision in August to resume capital punishment for death-row prisoners after 27 years.
Human rights groups say it was mostly political prisoners who were executed.
However, the president statement warned that the suspension could be temporary.
"What happens next will be dictated by either declining violent crime rate, in which case the moratorium will be indefinite, or an increase in violent crime rate, in which case the moratorium will be lifted automatically," the statement added.
The death penalty was abolished when former President Dawda Jawara led the country but was reinstated shortly after Jammeh seized power in 1994.
Jammeh's office said pressure from Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Senegal -- which surrounds Gambia, except for a strip of coastline, and had two of its citizens among the nine executed prisoners -- had played a part in the decision to suspend executions.
According to rights groups another 38 people face the firing squad in Gambia.