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[Oral Statement] 50th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR - Oral Statement of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty on the Death Penalty in Africa

October 2011

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ACHPR 50th Ordinary Session - Banjul, the Gambia
Item 8 ix on the agenda

Presentation by the Working Group on the death penalty in Africa

Oral Statement
World Coalition against the Death Penalty

Madam Chair,
Madam Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa,
Commissioners,


Advocates for Human Rights, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Hurilaws, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights (OMDH), the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and Penal Reform International (PRI), all members of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, wish to thank the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa for its work since the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

We congratulate the Working Group for preparing a report on the death penalty in Africa which will be presented to the Commission during this session. We hope that the report will be adopted by the Commission and that its recommendations will inform the Commission’s activities in the years to come.

Madam Chair,

The member associations of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty reiterate that the 2008 Resolution, adopted during the Commission’s 44th Ordinary Session in Abuja (Nigeria), encouraged state parties to observe a moratorium on the death penalty, to include in their periodic reports for the Commission any information on the steps being taken towards abolition and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

However, we are disappointed that African Union member states have still not taken this resolution properly into account and barely refer in their reports to any measures taken to abolish the death penalty in their respective countries.

Madam Chair,

The signatory associations congratulate the Benin parliament for authorising Benin’s adoption of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 18 August last.

We now invite Benin to implement this Protocol as swiftly as possible, to withdraw from its criminal legislation all references to the death penalty and to commute the sentences of all those who have been condemned to death in the country.

The signatory associations also congratulate the Minister of Justice in the Central African Republic, Mr Firmin FEINDIRO, for his commitment to abolishing the death penalty in his country during the conference on the death penalty in Central and Southern Africa organised in Kigali (Rwanda) by Hands Off Cain and the Ministry of Justice in Rwanda, in partnership with the World Coalition against the Death Penalty on 14 October 2011.

We invite the government of the Central African Republic swiftly to implement this commitment and ensure its legislation conforms to its international and religious commitments to protect the right to life.

Madam Chair,

In the wake of Benin’s example, we invite two other countries, Burundi and Togo, whose periodic reports were reviewed during this session, to abide by the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indeed Burundi abolished the death penalty when it revised its Criminal Code in April 2009 and Togo abolished the death penalty on 23 June 2009.

If these two countries were to abide by the Protocol, this would have a powerful symbolic value; it would show both countries’ firm commitment to abolition of the death penalty and would be an encouraging example in the region.

Madam Chair,

Even though the last execution in Nigeria dates back to 2006, the situation is still worrying with around 975 prisoners on death row according to Death Penalty Worldwide Database. In early July 2010, reports mentioned that the Nigerian government had considered mass executions of those condemned to death in order to alleviate prison overcrowding. Several Nigerian NGOs, such as Legal Resources Consortium and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, obtained a provisional injunction from the Nigerian Federal Upper Court as well as an order from the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights against the execution of prisoners on death row because this would be in violation of a whole host of human rights that these texts expressly protect. Between 824 and 870 individuals were the object of these orders and injunctions. In 2010 a further 151 individuals were condemned to death although, according to Amnesty International, no executions have taken place.

In order to avoid any arbitrary resumption of such executions, we invite the Federal Government of Nigeria immediately to adopt an official moratorium on executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty in their country in keeping with African and international trends.

Madam Chair,

Finally, the signatory associations invite the African Commission to adopt a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty in Africa since its application constitutes a violation of the African Charter, in particular the right to life (Article 4) and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 5).

Thank you Madam Chair.

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