Fighting to establish the unconstitutionality of the death penalty in the DRC


on 1 May 2008

The current Democratic Republic of Congo constitution, in place since early 2006, recognises the “right to life” and the “inviolable nature of human beings”.
A proposition for an article explicitly abolishing the death penalty was rejected by the national parliament during the text’s elaboration in 2005. Nevertheless, Congolese abolitionists see in the new constitution an opportunity to make the use of the death penalty impossible. It still exists in national law, especially in military courts.
“We have submitted two requests, one to the director of public prosecutions’ office and a second to the Ministry of Justice” to formally establish the unconstitutionality of the death penalty, explains Liévin N’Gondji (photo), a lawyer and president of Culture for Peace and Justice (CPJ), member of the World and Congolese Coalitions against the death penalty.
The prosecutor’s office sent the file to the military prosecutor’s office, which has refused to provide the campaigners with the documents required to proceed with the case.

Abolitionist opinions heard

Abolitionists have, however, gained a platform to argue their point of view to political authorities. Thanks to international aid, the DRC’s judicial system is being reformed and donors financing the project have invited CPJ to participate in the joint justice Commission, principally responsible for revising the penal code.
Representatives of the European Union and the French Cooperation included Liévin N’Gondji in the list of experts heard by the Commission. Having addressed this group of university heads, law professors and higher civil servants on 16th April last, he estimates that “approximately three quarters of those present were in agreement” with his position on the unconstitutionality of capital punishment.
From now on things should move quickly. According to Liévin N’Gondji, the Commission will make its recommendations to the government by the end of May. The latter should then make a decision quickly. “The next three months will be crucial”, he believes.

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