Gambia's hardline president, Yahya Jammeh dismissed two judges in the Supreme Court after criticising the court's move to commute several death sentences to life sentences in prison, a leading lawyer told AFP on Sunday.

The lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Raymond Sock and Gibou Janneh were sacked on Thursday without any explanation from the government.

The sackings followed the dismissal of Gambia's former chief justice, the Pakistani Ali Nawaz Chowhan, in May.

He was ordered to leave Gambia within 72 hours following his dismissal. No reason was given by the authorities for his sacking.

The lawyer said it was widely assumed that it would be "only a matter of time" before Justices Sock and Janneh were removed from office.

But he said their dismissal was "unlawful and unconstitutional, and is not in line with standard practice".

International outrage

"There are laid-down procedures for the removal of judges from office and this is clearly spelt out in the Gambian Constitution. The presidency should not depart from this practice."

Shortly after a failed coup attempt in January, Jammeh vowed to teach the attackers a lesson.

He also criticised the Supreme Court judges for commuting the death sentence against his former Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Lang Tombong Tamba, and six others to life imprisonment. Their sentences pre-dated the coup attempt.

In a televised speech then, Jammeh said he was no longer going to allow the Supreme Court "to overturn death sentences".

Jammeh sparked international outrage in August 2012 by announcing that all prisoners sentenced to death would be executed within weeks. A first group of nine prisoners were shot by firing squad.

Human rights groups believe another thirty prisoners are at risk of being executed, although no execution has been announced since.