The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held a regional conference on the death penalty in North and West Africa in Benin mid-April.
After the Kigali conference in September 2009, the death penalty working group of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights organised a second regional meeting in Cotonou between April 12-15, 2010.
The conference focused on North- and West-African countries and aimed to raise awareness on the death penalty issue among participants and to help design political and legal strategies for abolition. Participants also examined the prospect of adopting an additional protocol on the death penalty to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Around 50 people from 15 countries in the region came to take part in the debates. Over four days, plenary sessions and workshops targeted the death penalty in Africa and the means to achieve abolition.
The conference emphasised the need to inform and educate the population of the region to fast-track abolition. In that respect, several participants referred to the educational guide “Teaching abolition” published by the World Coalition on World Day Against the Death Penalty, October 10, 2009.
Part of the debates also focused on the role of religion in the region, as it can boost abolitionist efforts in some countries and hinder them in others.
A continental conference involving experts and officials from African Union member states will follow the Kigali and Cotonou regional meetings.
African Commissioner Sylvie Kayitesi, who chairs the working group, is planning to use that opportunity to present African heads of State and government with a draft additional protocol on the death penalty to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Such a move would give Africa a chance to adopt a binding instrument calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
On a national level, Benin’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou told the conference’s closing ceremony that Benin’s president has asked Parliament to enshrine the abolition of the death penalty in the Constitution. “The government sent the corresponding bill to Parliament five months ago. It will be examined during the parliamentary session due to open soon,” he said.