Africa takes a good look at the death penalty
The Working Group on the Death Penalty of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) is in the process of putting together a far-reaching document on the death penalty in Africa to serve as a foundation for its work – with help from the World Coalition.
At its first meeting since its creation, in Swaziland last May, the Working Group decided to expand on the terms of reference for its mandate from an earlier draft. The new document will examine historical aspects of the death penalty on the continent from the pre-colonial period to this day and explore the legal context of capital punishment, both within Africa and internationally.
It will also expose the arguments for and against the death penalty and the perspective of a moratorium and outline possible strategies for the the ACHPR.
The World Coalition, which has observer status in the Working Group, was asked to provide information for the experts in charge of drafting the document. Liévin Ngondji of Culture for Peace and Justice, a DRC-based member organisation of the World Coalition, took part in the Swaziland meeting to this effect. The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), another World Coalition member, also has observer status.
Information, including that provided by World Coalition members, is currently being compiled and the document will be discussed at an open forum in Kigali in November before the Woking Group formally adopts it.
First mention in 1999
The ACHPR first mentioned the death penalty in a 1999 resolution, calling on all African states to :
“a) limit the imposition of the death penalty only to the most serious crimes ;
b) consider establishing a moratorium on executions of death penalty;
c) reflect on the possibility of abolishing death penalty.”
It then established the Working Group on the Death Penalty in 2005.
According to a 2007 report by Lilian Chenwi, a researcher at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights, “placing the death penalty in the Commission’s agenda and establishing the Working Group on the Death Penalty are major steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in Africa”.
However, she also wrote that “resources constraints are already hampering the functioning of the group”.