One by One, African International locations Dismantle Colonial-Period Loss of life Penalty Legal guidelines

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One by One, African International locations Dismantle Colonial-Period Loss of life Penalty Legal guidelines



DAKAR, Senegal — Lawmakers in Sierra Leone voted unanimously on Friday to abolish the dying penalty, a momentous step that made the West African nation the twenty third on the continent to ban capital punishment.The choice was yet another step in a long-sought purpose of civil society organizations and authorized practitioners who see the dying penalty as a vestige of Africa’s oppressive colonial historical past.“This can be a horrible punishment and we have to eliminate it,” mentioned Oluwatosin Popoola, a authorized adviser on the rights group Amnesty Worldwide, a number one critic of capital punishment.A overwhelming majority of the 193 member states of the United Nations have both abolished the dying penalty or don’t follow it.“It’s a dream come true when it comes to legal justice, to truly take away such a heinous penalty,” mentioned Simitie Lavaly, a member of Sierra Leone’s Human Rights Fee and a lawyer who has represented individuals on dying row.The vote in Sierra Leone got here in opposition to the backdrop of a gradual march in Africa to discard brutal legal guidelines imposed by previous colonial masters. In April, Malawi dominated the dying penalty unconstitutional. In Might of 2020, Chad did the identical.Practically half of Africa’s 54 impartial international locations have abolished the punishment, greater than double the quantity from lower than 20 years in the past.Whereas dying sentences and executions have declined globally in recent times, they don’t essentially replicate the rising variety of international locations which have banned capital punishment. At the least a number of the declines are attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed or delayed judicial proceedings in lots of international locations. And in some, like the USA, federal executions have been ramped up in 2020.As in earlier years, China led the 2020 listing of nations that execute the most individuals, killing hundreds, in response to Amnesty Worldwide, which compiles capital punishment statistics. The precise figures for China aren’t identified, as its knowledge stays a state secret.Subsequent in 2020 got here Iran, which executed no less than 246 individuals, after which Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and in sixth place the USA, with 17 executions. Many of the American executions have been of federal prisoners within the final six months of President Donald J. Trump’s time period, a turnaround after years of an off-the-cuff moratorium.The legislators in Sierra Leone on Friday changed the dying sentence with a most life sentence for sure crimes, together with homicide and treason. Which means that judges can have the facility to contemplate mitigating components, comparable to whether or not the defendant has a psychological sickness. They’d have had no such flexibility if the lawmakers had voted as a substitute to switch the dying penalty with a compulsory life sentence.The final time the dying penalty was carried out in Sierra Leone was 1998, when on the apex of a devastating civil conflict, 24 troopers have been executed by firing squad for having participated in a coup the yr earlier than.Nonetheless, convicts have languished for years on dying row, the place their rights are minimal and the place they know {that a} new authorities may perform the punishment with out warning.In 2016, the minister of inner affairs on the time publicly ordered the gallows cleaned on the central jail in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, after two males have been sentenced to hold. The boys had been discovered responsible of murdering a preferred D.J. Whereas public opinion favored the hangings, they have been by no means carried out.Dozens of dying sentences in Sierra Leone have been handed down yearly. As of the tip of final yr, no less than 94 individuals remained on dying row.One Sierra Leonean lady was sentenced to dying in 2010 for the homicide of her abusive boyfriend. He had been attacking her with a pipe, and she or he picked up a knife in self-defense. She was simply 17, and shouldn’t have been topic to grownup authorized proceedings.One other was convicted of getting murdered her child stepdaughter by feeding her battery fluid — when actually she had given the sick youngster water. She was on dying row for six years.Each girls have been finally launched, with the assistance of AdvocAid, a nonprofit group that helps women and girls entangled in Sierra Leone’s authorized system. However for years, the prospect of execution hung over them.Sabrina Mahtani, the co-founder and former govt director of AdvocAid, mentioned Sierra Leone’s choice to dispose of capital punishment was outstanding particularly as a result of it’s nonetheless recovering from the 1991-2002 civil conflict that was characterised by intolerance, atrocities and excessive violence. She mentioned Sierra Leone had supplied a mannequin that extra highly effective international locations like the USA ought to emulate.“Right here’s a small nation in West Africa that had a brutal civil conflict 20 years in the past and so they’ve managed to abolish the dying penalty,” Ms. Mahtani mentioned. “They’d really be an instance for you, U.S., relatively than it at all times being the opposite manner round.”President Julius Maada Bio’s authorities has labored on a number of reforms to the legal justice system, together with the repeal of a legislation continuously used to repress the media. In Might, at a overview of Sierra Leone’s human rights file on the United Nations, the federal government introduced it could abolish capital punishment as effectively.“It’s a very huge deal in all features, in Sierra Leone and internationally,” mentioned Mr. Popoola. Sierra Leone is the primary of the English-speaking West African international locations to abolish the punishment.A decade in the past, a fee in Ghana really helpful abolition, however in recent times efforts have stalled.In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, no less than 2,700 individuals are on dying row — the very best quantity by far on the African continent.Gambia had been on monitor to abolish the dying penalty final yr, when a brand new Structure was drafted. However it was rejected by Parliament. Nonetheless, Gambia’s president has made some important strikes away from capital punishment, Mr. Popoola mentioned.These are all international locations that, like Sierra Leone, obtained independence from Britain within the late Fifties and Nineteen Sixties — across the identical time as that colonial energy was finishing up its personal final executions.“The dying penalty is a colonial imposition, and these legal guidelines have been inherited from the U.Ok.,” Ms. Mahtani mentioned.



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