75th Ordinary Session of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights 


By Wendy Adouki, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, on 15 August 2023

From 3rd to 23rd May 2023, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) held its 75th Ordinary Session for the first time in a hybrid format with participants both attending online and in person in Banjul, the Gambia, seat of the ACHPR.

In his opening speech, Honorable Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, President of the ACHPR, reaffirmed with conviction the crucial role of this human rights body in ensuring the protection of individual and group rights. 

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (World Coalition) followed this session with attention online, along with its member organizations: the FIACAT (the International Federation of ACATS), CHESO (Children Education Society – Tanzania), Legal and Human Rights Centre (Tanzania), COJESKI (Collectif des Organisations de Jeunes solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa),Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda),  SHRDO (Society for Human Rights and Developpment Organization, Sierra Leone), UCPDHO (DRC), REPRODEVH (Niger), Mauritanian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, CODHAS (RDC), Pax Christi Uvira (DRC), RADHOMA (DRC), REJADD Togo, SYNAFEN (Niger), Prisoners’ Future Foundation ( Zambia) and the Niger Coalition Against the Death Penalty.Earlier, the World Coalition and members listened to the presentations made during the NGOs Forum that took place a few days before the session starts on 29the April to 1st May 2023, also in a hybrid format. 

Abolitionist trend continues in Africa

A joint declarationon the death penalty in Africa was submitted to the ACHPR, by FIACAT, and the World Coalition highlighting the strong abolitionist path on the continent with the emergence of several abolitionist bills, particularly in Liberia and Ghana. 

In his intersession activity report, the Honorable Commissioner Idrissa Sow, Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa confirmed the abolitionist streak on the continent highlighting several positive advances. Notably, the Republic of Zambia – whose periodic report was studied along with Senegal –abolished the death penalty in December 2022. 

Additionally, Honorable Idrissa Sow announced that the 2011 study on the death penalty in Africa would be revised. A call for contributions will be launched to gather relevant information to enrich the report.  

Zambia and Senegal Reports were studied 

Zambia and Senegal’s compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter) were reviewed during this session. During the presentation of the Zambian periodic report, the Zambian Minister of Justice, Mulambo Hamakuni Haimbe, declared that Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema had enacted the abolition of the death penalty in law in December 2022.This is a major step forward for the civil and political rights of Zambians. Following the abolition of the death penalty, in February, Zambian President commuted the sentences into life imprisonment of 390 death row inmates of which 11 are women, so there would be no more death row inmates in Zambia.  A position paper on the death penalty in Zambia was submitted by the World Coalition and one of its members, outlining that confirmed reports indicated that there were still 8 people on death row awaiting pardon. The Honorable Topsy Sonoo, Special Rapporteur on the country,expressed her appreciation to the Zambian authorities and called them to ratify the OP2-ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. 

Also, a position note on Senegal – abolitionist in law since 2004 – written by ACAT Senegal, FIACAT and co-signed by the World Coalition was submitted to the ACHPR. While appreciating the progress made by the Senegalese authorities in protecting the right to life, ACAT Senegal and its partner organizations call on them to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and support the adoption of the Protocol to the Banjul Charter.

Rising concerns over the use of death penalty in some countries

Honorable Commissioner Idrissa Sow expressed his concern over a bill passed by the Ugandan Parliament in March 2023 providing for penalties up to the death penalty for the crime of aggravated homosexuality. He informed the Commission that he sent a joint letter with Honorable Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga, the rapporteur in charge of the human rights situation in the country, to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni urging him not to promulgate this bill and reminding its obligation as a State Party to the Banjul Charter “to ensure respect for the right to life, as a fundamental right without which all other rights cannot be realized”.It was also remarked that several countries including Egypt, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Sudan continue to hand down death sentences. Additionally, some judicial system still imposes capital punishment as mandatory for certain offenses despite the position of principles enacted by the African Court on Human Peoples Rights in its judgment of November 28, 2019, rendered in the case of Ally Rajabu v. Republic of Tanzania stated that “the mandatory imposition of the death penalty fails to respect due process of law and violates standards of fair trial, by preventing courts of justice from setting a punishment commensurate with the crime committed.” 

Lastly, while reiterating the call for a moratorium for countries which have not abolished yet, the Working Group underlined the Commission’s positions that capital punishment must be confined for the most serious crimes which are murder with the intention of killing.  

The next ordinary public session is due to take place in October/November 2023.

Photo of the 75th Ordinary of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights. From left to right and top to bottom: Honourable Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo attending online, Honourable Commissioner Idrissa Sow attending online, Zambian Minister of Justice Mulambo Hamakuni Haimbe attending online and the others Commissioners attending in Banjul, Gambia 

Copyright: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

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