68th Ordinary Session African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights- Anti-Death Penalty Advocacy Continues
The ACHPR (the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights) met virtually for its 68th Ordinary Session from 14 April – 4 May 2021.
This was the 3rd time the Commission met on Zoom since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and best practices for virtual advocacy developed over the past year show progress for the anti-death penalty community. The World Coalition, along with the FIACAT (the International Federation of ACATS), ASF (Avocats sans frontiers) in Nigera, COJESKI RDC (Collectif des organisations des Jeunes solidiares), Pax Christi Uvira asbl, RAL (Rescue Alternatives Liberia), SHRDO (Society for Human Rights Development Organization), SYNAFEN (Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l’éducation du Niger), CONICOPEM (Coalition Nigérienne contre la peine de mort), REPRODEVH (Réseau Progrès et Dévéloppement Humanitaire), UCPDHO (Union Chrétienne pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits de l’Homme) took full advantage of the ordinary session to highlight the necessity for capital punishment abolition on the African continent.
Training on the ACHPR
The World Coalition, in partnership with the FIACAT, kicked off the advocacy week with two on-line workshops for World Coalition members and ACATs (L’Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture) on 8 and 9 April. Each workshop was language oriented to allow participants to learn more about the functioning of the ACHPR and advocacy opportunities in French and in English. The training was heavily based on the training guide How to Work with the ACHPR to Abolish the Death Penalty published by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty in April 2020. Efforts to mail-out physical copies of these guides to the participants were made in the weeks leading up to the training.
With an overall participation of 39 individuals between the two trainings, one participant stated, “It allowed me to reinforce my capacities concerning the writing and presentation of an oral statement as well as the appropriateness of the NGO forum”.
Organized on the 12-13 April, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies held the traditional NGO Forum for civil society organizations in the days leading up to the opening ceremony of the ACHPR. Held for the purpose of civil society organizations to work together to prepare for the upcoming session, the NGO Forum had a productive session, adopting 1 resolution on Benin and 6 thematic resolutions, one of which focused on the death penalty and women – the theme of the 2021 World Day Against the Death Penalty. The resolution called for the abolition of the death penalty in Africa for all countries, while encouraging specific measures to support women sentenced to death including, “urg[ing] State Parties that still retain the death penalty to increase transparency by making data and information publicly available on the number of women on death row…”
68th Ordinary Session
The session began with the Opening Ceremony on 14 April. The World Coalition and the FIACAT had met with the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances (Working Group) earlier in March to prepare for a joint panel with the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women, Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela. The panel focused on Violence Against Women in Vulnerable Situations, including a presentation made by Angela Uwandu, Esq., Head of Office for ASF in Abuja Nigeria. In the panel, held on 20 April, Uwandu reminded the public that “many women sentenced to death were victims of sexual and gender-based violence leading up to the commission of the crimes that led them to death row. In many of these cases, evidence of abuse is never considered by the courts in the criminal trials leading to their convictions and death sentence. (…) This is even worse in African countries like Nigeria which continue to maintain the mandatory death penalty regime for certain offences.”
In addition to the panel, the World Coalition and member organizations presented an oral declaration on capital punishment to the ACHPR, as well as the submission of parallel reports on the examination of Niger and Malawi.
The Closing Ceremony took place on 4 May 2021, and while the resolution on death penalty and women was not adopted as it had been at the NGO Forum, there is still hope for its’ adoption later this year.
Photo Credit: WCADP- ACHPR 68th Ordinary Session, Joint Panel on Violence Against Women in Vulnerable Situations.