The death penalty at the heart of the debates of the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Burkina Faso and Gambia’s commitments toward abolition
On April 27th the Working Group on the death penalty in Africa of the ACHPR jointly organised, with the World Coalition, ECPM, FIACAT and FIDH, a panel on the death penalty in Africa chaired by the President of the ACHPR, Honourable Commissioner Sovata Maïga. On this occasion, Teresa Mutua from ICJ-Kenya presented the results of the Regional Congress against the death penalty through the eyes of a World Coalition’s young member. Mrs Fatima Mbaye, President of the Mauritanian Association of Human Right’s (AMDH) and Aryio Popoola from LEDAP presented the challenges regarding the abolition of the death penalty in their respective countries, Mauritania and Nigeria. It was the opportunity to target the host country of the Session and one State whose periodic report was reviewed during the Session. Finally, Paul Angaman, FIACAT’s President, presented the draft additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa, and invited African Union Member States to support it or at least abstain from voting against it.
In light of these presentations, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Justice Bessolé René Bagoro reminded the commitment made by his country to abolish the death penalty. He announced that the draft new Criminal Code adopted by the Burkinabe government in March 2018 provides for the abolition of the death penalty and will be discussed by the National Assembly on May 24th, 2018. The new draft Constitution also provides for the abolition of the death penalty in its article 5. He estimates that, within 2 months Burkina Faso will be abolitionist for all crimes. Gambia’s representant also took the floor to remind the commitments made by The Gambia in favour of the abolition of the death penalty.
The day before the panel, ECPM organised a side-event on the abolition of the death penalty in North Africa, more specifically in Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. It allowed participants to share their successes and challengesin moving from de facto moratorium to a complete abolition in law.
Nigeria’s human rights situation reviewed by the ACHPR
Nigeria submitted its 6th periodic report to be reviewed by the ACHPR. During its 5th review, in 2015, the Commission had recommended Nigeria to establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition of the death penalty. However, Nigeria is making little progress as noted by LEDAP, HURILAWS and the World Coalition in the position paper submitted to the ACHPR Working Group on the death penalty in April 2018. Indeed, Nigeria retains the death penalty for many crimes, including certain crimes that ar not “blood” crimes. Death sentences continue to be handed down by Courts throughout the country. In 2017 more than 600 death sentences were handed down by Courts.
The massive and worrying increase of death sentences recorded in Nigeria in 2017 goes against the global and African trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.
The World Coalition and its members in Nigeria will closely follow the recommendations that the African Commission will address to Nigeria regarding the abolition of the death penalty.