The World Day against the death penalty is celebrated on the 10 October of every year, to remind us and the rest of the World of the need to abolish the Death Penalty. This year’s theme “The Death Penalty Does Not Stop Drug Crimes” is aimed at raising awareness on the increasing number of death sentences and executions for drug-related crimes that took place over the years and during the course of 2015 in many countries despite international appeals for clemency.
Since the establishment of the African Commission’s, Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa (the Working Group), it has individually and with its partners around the world called for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances including for drug-related crimes.
The African Commission has through its working group followed the trends in Africa and has observed that despite the significant improvements made in the abolition of the death penalty, there are countries in Africa and beyond that still apply the death penalty for drug related crimes despite the fact that such offences do not meet the international standard for “most serious crimes”.
The Commission is also concerned that most of the trials for such offences do not always meet the international standards for the observance of due process and fair trial procedures. Application of the death penalty for drug-related crimes therefore, contravenes Article 4 of the African Charter which guarantees the right to respect for human life and Article 5 which prohibits all forms of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment and treatment.
Furthermore, there is no concrete and convincing evidence to show that the application of the death penalty to persons convicted of drug-related crimes has served as an effective deterrent thereby reducing drug importation and abuse globally.
As we commemorate the 13th World Day against the Death Penalty, the African Commission calls on State Parties that impose the death Penalty for capital offences including drug-related crimes, to observe a moratorium on the sentences with a view to working towards its abolition as well as impose a moratorium on the execution of prisoners on death row by commuting their death sentences to life imprisonment.
The African Commission also reiterates its call on African Union (AU) Member States that have not yet ratified legal instruments that prohibit the death penalty to do so, in particular the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty and to harmonise their national laws accordingly.
Finally, the African Commission salutes all the regional and international efforts to abolish the death penalty and in raising awareness on the inviolability of the right to life and the need to respect and protect it.
Banjul, 9 October 2015