Children and the death penalty in Sub-Saharan Africa: NGO Forum and the 65th ACHPR Session
Addressing Children Who are Impacted by the Death Penalty
In partnership with FIACAT, the World Coalition held a side-event at the NGO Forum on Saturday 19th October focusing on children of parents who are sentenced to death or executed in Sub-Saharan Africa, the theme of this year’s World Day. In the form of a panel, the side-event hosted speakers Connie Numbi (from Uganda’s Foundation for Human Rights Initiative- FHRI), John Nyoka (from Tanzania’s Children Education Society- CHESO), Paul Angaman (from Côte d’Ivoire, President of FIACAT), and Pacôme Akogou (Vice-President of ACAT Benin). Each speaker dove into various elements of how children experience the socio-psychological impact of the death penalty of a parent and what steps the State should take in protecting children from that impact.
“[This] year’s theme and category are very important- the children we are celebrating today are rarely considered [by society with regards to capital punishment] but are condemned because of what their parents did…” said Connie Numbi about the current situation in Uganda.
In line with the values set out by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, a child’s best interest should be of primordial consideration in the context of judicial matters. The Charter further protects the rights of the child as it prohibits the “death sentence imposed on mothers [of infants and young children.]” The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child have expanded the definition of ‘mother’ in this context to also include “a father” and/ or “any caregiver”.
The subject drew in participants who filled the room quickly where the side-event was being held. The event was so popular that there were not enough chairs and audience members chose to stand in the room. However, this did not stop individuals from staying and engaging with the panelists.
One question from two participants from Tanzania and the Congo respectively asked how can other countries and NGOs work to support children whose parents are sentenced to death? The panelists encouraged working together as a group by reaching out to organizations that work in similar subject matter: prisoner’s rights, children’s rights, etc. Coalitions have a greater and larger impact than isolated action as everyone has the same goal. John Nyoka stated that “copy[ing] from [other] institutions, which have performed better in the areas of advocating for abolition. Tanzania has learnt a lot from Uganda especially on what they are doing for the abolition of the death penalty.”
The panel was an eye opener for many participants. According to some, unlike previous World Day themes, this year’s theme was targeting a specific vulnerable group who are otherwise innocent of their parent’s actions; it was untapped area and although the information is available, awareness is limited.
Appreciated Advocacy Training on How to Work with the ACHPR
In a continued effort to provide resources to members, the World Coalition with FIACAT held its third edition of a training workshop for present members with the aim to teach more about how the ACHPR functions and how NGOs may interact with it. The bilingual workshop, held the day before the ACHPR’s Opening ceremony on Sunday 20 October, was led by Connie Numbi and Paul Angaman. The all-day workshop included practical exercises, group work, and role-playing.
“The training was very important- I wish I had this information before!” stated John Nyoka. For the teachers of the workshop, this training was deemed as very valuable, particularly to be able to contribute during the session. As noted by both Connie Numbi, “[this type of training] is important because most NGOs [who] have an observer status [with the ACHPR] may not be utilizing it just because they do not know what to do [during the sessions].”
Fourteen individuals were present for the workshop, which shows a continued trend of interested parties who find this training needed in the context of the ACHPR.
The 2019 World Congress Acts Launched
The ACHPR’s Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa hosted a panel on Thursday 24 October on the global situation in Africa regarding extra-judicial killings. While not necessarily focused on the abolition of the death penalty, the panel closed with remarks from Nicolas Perron from ECPM, who publicly launched the 2019 World Congress Acts, which cover the goals and outcomes of the Congress in Brussels.