African Commission adopts draft Protocol on abolition
An official panel discussion on capital punishment in Africa took place at the ACHPR session on April 22, 2015.
The debate organized by FIACAT, FIDH and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty in collaboration with the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa of the ACHPR, addressed the issue of capital punishment in view of the adoption of an African Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty by the ACHPR later in this session.
The event saw the participation of representatives of civil society, governments and the African commission.
Moving forward: the importance of adopting a regional protocol
Sylvie Zeinabo Kayitesi, chairperson of the ACHPR and of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa, introduced the draft protocol to the participants. She stressed the importance of its adoption to encourage abolition and increase the protection of the right to life under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
In its final communiqué, the ACHPR said it had adopted the “draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and peoples’ rights on the Abolition of the death Penalty in Africa”. The draft protocol is now before the African Union.
The draft protocol also received the support of the government of Niger represented in the panel by Mamane Oumaria, chief advisor to the Prime Minister. Mr. Oumaria described his government’s efforts on the path towards abolition with the support of civil society organisations such as ACAT Niger and the Nigerien Coalition against the Death Penalty.
After approving a bill to adopt the UN Protocol on abolition in October 2014 and voting in favour of the UN General Assembly moratorium resolution in December 2014, the government of Niger is now hoping for support from the Parliament to move towards abolition in law. Finally, M. Oumaria proclaimed his government’s official support for the African protocol on the abolition of the death penalty.
Regional progress and difficulties
Representing FIACAT and the World Coalition, Paul Angaman outlined the progress made in Africa in the last few years. Nowadays, 18 out of 54 African Union member states have abolished the death penalty in law, 19 have a moratorium and 17 retain the death penalty.
Civil society’s efforts and strategies to move towards abolition in Africa were presented by Andrew Songa from the Kenya Human Rights Commission, who painted a picture of the situation in his own country which still has a moratorium.
A few member states took the floor in order to express their position and present the difficulties encountered in the path towards abolition. Representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Algeria said that for different reasons, namely conflict and heinous crimes, moving towards definitive abolition of the death penalty was impossible for them.
But the representative of Togo, an abolitionist country since 2009, encouraged fellow member states to get rid of capital punishment as a way of improving their human rights record.
The moderator of the panel, FIDH representative Mabassa Fall, wrapped up the session by applauding the ACHPR’s efforts in favour of the abolitionist cause and encouraged the swift adoption of the draft African Protocol to move forward in the process of strengthening legal instruments for the protection of human rights in Africa.