Ending the Death Penalty on the African Continent
The African continent is part of the international movement towards universal abolition. In 1990, only one country had abolished the death penalty: Cape Verde. Today, out of the 54 States Members of the African Union, 20 have abolished the death penalty in law, 18 no longer execute those sentenced to death, 38 countries are therefore abolitionist in law or in practice and 16 States still retain the death penalty as a punishment. The Republic of Congo and Madagascar abolished the capital punishment in 2015 and Guinea was the last African country to join the list of abolitionist countries on 4 July, 2016.
The dynamics of the African continent and of its civil society as regards to the abolition of the death penalty is what motivated the WCADP and its partners to launch the project “Contributing to the abolition of the death penalty on the African continent”. Since 2015 the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, along with its member organisations FIACAT and FIDH and its partner Ditshwanelo, engaged in a campaign that has three main components:
Strengthening the African Civil Society
The World Coalition and its partners have focused on supporting its members by improving the lobbying and advocacy skills of African civil society organisations on their path towards the abolition of the death penalty. To achieve this they have:
- Created a mailing list for all the partner organisations in sub-Saharan Africa to share information on the death penalty in Africa, but also on the work of their organisations
- Helped the World Coalition’s member organisations in Africa to apply for funding.
- Partnered with the Cornell University for a training for capital defence lawyers focused on common law jurisdictions in Africa.
- Invited partner organisations from the African continent to participate to the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, where a round table was dedicated to the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right’s on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa.
- Called for action and initiatives on World Day against the Death Penalty.
- Created a manual for civil society based on good practices
Supporting the Adoption of an African protocol
In April 2015, at 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 and adopted a draft regional treaty to help African Union member states to move away from capital punishment: a draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa.
The World Coalition against the Death Penalty along with its partners FIACAT, FIDH and Ditshwanelo as well as the Working group on the death penalty have been working relentlessly to seek support for the adoption of this regional treaty by the African Union, but also, for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
> Click here for more information on the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa.
> Read our articles on the Ratification of the Second Optional Protocol by Togo and by São Tomé.
Strengthening the Work of the Working Group on the Death Penalty of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights
The Working Group on the death penalty was set up in 2005 at the 38th Session of the ACHPR and its mandate was expanded in 2012 to include issues of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings. The Working Group is composed of three commissioners and five experts and is chaired by Commissioner Sylvie Kayitesi.
The Working Group of the ACHPR has committed to the abolition of the death penalty in the African continent trough different actions such as urgent appeals, press releases and seeking support for the adoption of the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Several civil society organisations from Africa have been invited to the 58th and 59th Ordinary Sessions of the ACHPR, where the Working Group on the death penalty and extrajudicial executions has organised a panel on the death penalty and called upon the African states to take steps for the abolition of the capital punishment.