Ending the Death Penalty in Africa
The African continent is part of the international movement towards universal abolition. In 1990, only one country, Cap Verde, had abolished the death penalty. Today, out of the 55 African Union member States, 25 have abolished the death penalty in law, 15 are applying a long-term moratorium on executions while 15 retain capital punishment. Most recently Chad abolished the death penalty in April 2020, followed by Sierra Leone in October 2021 and the Central African Republic in June 2022.
The regional dynamics carrying the African continent towards abolition of the death penalty, as well as the crucial mobilization of the abolitionist civil society are at the center of this on-going project and are what makes it particularly relevant. Since 2015, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the FIACAT, in partnership with its members, has engaged in a campaign that contains three main components:
STRENGTHENING AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY
The World Coalition and its members have focused on supporting its project partners by improving the lobbying and advocacy capacity of African civil society organizations on their path to abolishing capital penalty. To achieve this, the World Coalition:
- Coordinates a mailing list for all partner organizations in sub-Saharan Africa to share information on the death penalty in Africa as well as on-going work within their organizations.
- Supports the World Coalition’s member organizations in Africa to apply for funding.
- Provides targeted trainings and How-To manuals on how to work with various abolitionist allies including:
- African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)
- National Human Rights Institutions
- Partners with Cornell University Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide who provides trainings for capital defense lawyers in Africa.
- Engages with partner organizations at the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo in 2016, in Brussels in 2019, and in Berlin in 2022.
- Mobilizes action for the World Day Against the Death Penalty. The World Coalition has also worked to translate World Day materials into languages spoken in Africa. Click here for the most recent poster in Swahili, Lingala, and Luganda.
- Provided a manual for civil society based on good advocacy practices (below).
SUPPORTING THE WORK OF THE ACHPR WORKING GROUP ON THE DEATH PENALTY
The ACHPR Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa was established in 2005 during the 38th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR- since then the working group has grown and expanded. While its members are subject to change with the elections of the ACHPR itself, there are currently 3 Commissioners and 4 Experts who constitute the group.
The Working Group has been engaged in the fight for abolition on the African continent through various actions such as urgent appeals, press releases, adopting resolutions within the ACHPR and African Union, and seeking support for the adoption of the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (see below).
The World Coalition, the FIACAT, and its members have been regularly attending public Ordinary Sessions of the ACHPR, and engaging with the Working Group to co-organize panels and make recommendations to African States to take steps to abolish.
SUPPORTING THE ADOPTION OF AN AFRICAN PROTOCOL AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY
In April 2015, during its 56th Ordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) put the abolition of the death penalty at the heart of its debates. They adopted a draft treaty to help the African Union member States to take steps at the regional level to solidify their commitment to abolition: a draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa. This draft regional treaty would provide a similar, voluntary structure as the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
The World Coalition’s members, along with the FIACAT, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Botswana-based NGO Ditshwanelo, as well as the ACHPR’s Working Group on the Death Penalty have worked relentlessly to seek support for the adoption of this regional treaty by the African Union.
- Click here for more information on the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- Click here to read more about Angola, Sao Tomé and Principe, Gambia and Madagascar who have adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.