Awareness Building Workshop with African Union Members
On 28th March, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the African Union from Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Chad, Togo, and the Comoros met at the initiative of the ACHPR’s Working Group on the Death Penalty in partnership with FIACAT, the World Coalition and the OIF. The aim was to raise awareness, identify obstacles and generate enthusiasm for the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa.
The session opened with moderation by the Chairperson of the Working Group, the Honorable Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi. The rest of the panel who directed the workshop included Issa Abdourhamane, the OIF permanent representative to the African Union, Paul Angaman, President of FIACAT, Michel Sonomou, President of Avocats Sans Frontiers Guinea and Baye Moctor Diop the President of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, representing Senegal to the AU and to Ethiopia. The speakers took turns calling for the abolition of the death penalty, exploring best practices within their respective nations, and reviewing the procedural steps necessary within the African Union (AU) to adopt the Draft Protocol.
Then followed discussion between dignitaries. The topics raised during discussions proved to be crucial in understanding existing obstacles and challenges to death penalty abolition faced in certain countries. While many states represented are either abolitionist or under a moratorium, the Representative from Egypt did join in discussions giving reasons why Egypt was not in support of abolition.
A notable obstacle that was brought up in securing a place for the Draft Protocol in the African Charter was that many representatives were simply uninformed that the protocol remains procedurally blocked at the AU Summit since 2016. “Given the interest in this room alone [in seeing the Draft Protocol be adopted], I’m not sure I understand at what level the protocol is being blocked” stated the Representative from Comoros. There are several reasons for the stalemate: retentionist powerhouses like Egypt and Botswana oppose the draft protocol, the visibility of the protocol is poor, and it has not yet been placed on the official agenda of the AU Summit. An overall success, the organizers hope to be able to lead similar workshops in the near future.
The Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Abolition
The Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Abolition of the Death Penalty is a long-term project conceived by ACHPR (African Commission on Human and People’s Rights) in July 2014 at the first Conference on the Death Penalty in Africa. Having received support by many UA State representatives, parliamentarians and National Human Rights Institutions, and NGOs across Africa it was officially adopted as a draft protocol during the 56th ACHPR Ordinary Session in 2015. Since then, it has met numerous administrative obstacles in making its way to adoption by the UA.
The content of the draft protocol reinforces the commitment the UA States have made to abolishing the death penalty, and if the necessary steps haven’t yet been taken, place a moratorium on all executions until capital punishment can be legally abolished. A crucial tool in encouraging African governments to openly deal with the issue of the death penalty, the draft protocol once adopted would be optional and only apply to those states who sign it.