73rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights: In- Person, Advocating Against the Death Penalty
After nearly 3 years, the ACHPR (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights) met in-person in Banjul, The Gambia to hold their 73rd Ordinary Session from 21st October – 10th November 2022.
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, along with the FIACAT (International Federation of ACATs), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda), Nigerien Coalition Against the Death Penalty, the Human Rights Ivorian League (LIDHO), Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Coordination Eveil et cause pour l’Unité nationale et la lutte contre l’esclavage (Mauritania), and Observatoire Burundais des Prisons (Burundi) met in Banjul to participate in the NGO Forum and the Ordinary Session proceedings to ensure that the death penalty was on the agenda.
Ahead of every public Ordinary ACHPR Session, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies organizes an NGO Forum inviting organizations who plan on attending the ACHPR session to provide a space to discuss human rights issues. The World Coalition, along with the FIACAT, held a panel at the NGO Forum focusing on Death Penalty, Torture, and the World Day on 17th October 2022. ACHPR Vice-Chairperson Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel moderated the panel giving the floor to four speakers: Ivana Machonova Schellongova (Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights), Dr Mamadou Coulibaly (LIDHO), Connie Numbi (Vice President of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty) and Martin Mavenjina (KHRC).
The panel was organized to mark the 20th World Day Against the Death Penalty, whose theme speaks on torture and capital punishment. 20 years of the World Day have seen significant evolution towards regional abolition- a fact that Ms. Numbi reminded the participants during her panel presentation. The World Day provides a spark for abolitionist progress around the world, and thanks to this momentum “(the) number of people sentenced to death has reduced in some countries, like Uganda (where there are 120 on death row, 3 women and 117 men), [where] laws have also been revised to provide for progressive abolition…”
In-Person ACHPR Trainings
The World Coalition with the FIACAT were also able to hold in-person trainings for members and partners on how to work with the ACHPR for the first time since 2019. Two trainings were held in French and in English over the period of two days on the 19th and 20th October for a total of 28 participants. The participants’ feedback of the training was overall very positive, with many stating they would have benefitted from an even longer training. The World Coalition and the FIACAT are currently working on a series of online trainings on the ACHPR, which be accessible in 2023.
73rd Ordinary Session
The Ordinary Session officially started on Friday 21st October, in which the World Coalition and its members attended the opening ceremony. Throughout the remainder of the session, the death penalty received attention. An oral statement written by members of the Mauritanian Association on Human Rights and Together Against the Death Penalty was read, and the periodic reports of Mauritania and Ivory Coast were studied, with recommendations related to the death penalty orally.
Two resolutions on the death penalty were also passed. One championed by NGOs and the ACHPR’s working group on the death penalty, N°544 ‘Resolution on the Death Penalty and the prohibition of Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment of treatment’, speaking directly to ‘torture’, the theme of the 2022 World Day Against the Death Penalty and the panel at the NGO Forum.
A second resolution was passed laying the foundation for the ACHPR’s working group on the death penalty to update their 2011 study that reviewed the state of the death penalty on the African continent. Given the strides the abolitionist movement has made on the continent, the update to the study is warmly welcomed by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The resolution aims to provide the new study’s conclusions within a year.
The ACHPR’s working group on the death penalty has seen a slight shift in its composition. ACHPR Vice-Chairperson Commissioner Maya Sahli Fadel, a longtime member of the working group, has left the group and now Honorable Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela is the working group’s new Vice Chair. Three new experts have been appointed representing West Africa, North Africa, and Southern Africa.
Lastly, on the 73rd Ordinary Session, the ACHPR launched its new website, which features – for the first time- the website language option in Kiswahili.
Photo of the NGOs Forum Panel on Torture, Death Penalty, and World Day on 17 October 2022. Copyright: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty