1. This report covers the activities undertaken by myself in my capacity as Commissioner and as the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa. The period covers activities undertaken between the 49th Ordinary Session in May 2011 and the 50th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
2. The Report is divided into four parts, Part A outlines my activities as Commissioner, Part B outlines my activities as the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa, Part C outlines a brief situational analysis on the death penalty and Part D outlines some recommendations on the death penalty.
A. Activities undertaken as a Commissioner
Meetings and Training Seminars
3. In the margins of the 50th ordinary Session of the African Commission, I attended the NGO Forum which took place in Banjul, The Gambia, organised by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa from 19 to 21 October 2011.
4. On 21 October 2011, I took part in the meeting on “the Consultation on Implementing and Monitoring the Human Rights Strategy for Africa”, in Banjul, The Gambia, organized by the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission.
5. From 22 to 23 October 2011, I took part in the Human Rights Colloquium for the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the African Charter on the theme: ‟Current Challenges and Future Opportunities in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa‟, in Banjul, The Gambia, organized by the African Commission in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for East Africa and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa.
B. Activities undertaken as Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa
6. During the intersession, as the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa, I forwarded a Letter of Appeal on the situation of the Death Penalty to:
i. His Excellency, President of the Federal Republic of Mauritania on 14 June 2011, following information received which indicated that on 15 May 2011, three juvenile offenders by the names of Mohamed Yahya Ould Salem, Seydina Aly Ould Ahmed and Zeine Ould Abedine Ould Ahmed have been sentenced to death in Mauritania. The Appeal was sent to remind the State to adhere to the Resolutions of the African Commission on the Moratorium and urge for measures to be put in place to prevent the execution of these juveniles.
Meetings, Seminars and Conferences
7. On 10 October 2011, I participated in the celebration of the 9th World Day against the Death Penalty „in Geneva, Switzerland, organized by World Coalition against the Death Penalty. I was part of the high level panel on „the Debate on the international Jurisprudence on the Death Penalty and the Right not to be subjected to Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and Punishment‟. I presented a paper on the “Regional Jurisprudence and the Right not to be subjected to Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” focusing on the African Commission and African countries jurisprudence on the death penalty.
8. On 10 October 2011, I attended the 4th Meeting of the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), in Geneva, Switzerland. I presented a paper on the “Situation of the Death Penalty in Africa, the Work of the Working Group on the Death penalty in Africa and the Possibility of Cooperation between the Working Group on the Death Penalty of the African Commission and the ICDP”.
9. From 13 to 14 October 2011, I participated in the Regional Conference on the Abolition and/or Moratorium on Executions of the Death Penalty in Africa, in Kigali, Rwanda, organized by the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the organisation Hands off Cain. The Conference was opened by His Excellency President of the Republic of Rwanda. The Chairperson of the AUC, Mr. Jean Ping took part in the Opening Ceremony and addressed the participants, he also urged African States to take a step and move towards the abolition of the death penalty. The Conference brought together representatives of Member States among whom were Ministers of Justice or Foreign Affairs, representatives of NHRIs and national NGOs concerned with issues relating to the death penalty. During the deliberations, I was part of the panel on the theme: “Death Penalty and International Debate” and I gave a presentation on “the Regional Debate on the Death Penalty and the Situation of the Death Penalty in Africa”. The conference also passed a Resolution calling on African States:
- To subscribe to Human Rights Instruments that prohibit the death penalty, namely the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and align national legislation accordingly;
- To establish in the interim a moratorium on executions with a view to eventually abolishing the death penalty;
- To draft an additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples‟ Rights on the death penalty, giving all the AU member countries which have not yet abolished the death penalty a chance to adopt a binding instrument calling for the abolition of the death penalty; and
- To co-sponsor and vote in favour of the Resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions at the 2012 UN General Assembly.
Meeting of the Working Group on Death Penalty
10. From 22 to 24 August 2011, the Working Group on the Death Penalty held its fifth meeting in Pretoria, South Africa. The meeting was organised to finalize the Document on “The Study of the Question of the Death Penalty in Africa” for presentation to the African Commission at its 50th Ordinary Session. The launching of the Document will take place as soon as the document is adopted.
C. Situational Analysis of the Death Penalty in Africa
11. During the intersession, I continued to follow up on the situation of the death penalty in Africa. It was noted that Benin is the latest African country to abolish the death penalty in August 2011, through the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, bringing the total number of African Countries that have abolished the death penalty to date to 17. Statistics indicate that thirty-six (36) African countries retain the death penalty in their statute books although in twenty- two (22) of these countries there is a moratorium on executions and some death sentences are at times commuted to various terms of imprisonment. (The States that have as of 2011 abolished the death penalty are 17 in number: Angola (1992), Benin (2011), Cape Verde (1981), Cote dIvoire (2000), Djibouti (1995), Burundi (2009),Gabon (2007), Guinea-Bissau (1993),, Mauritius (1995), Mozambique (1990), Namibia (1990), Rwanda (2007), Sao Tome and Principe (1990), Senegal (2004), Seychelles (1993), South Africa (1995) and Togo (2010.). The year in bracket indicates when the penalty was abolished. ) Also only about 9 (South Africa, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and Seychelles and Benin) out of the current 54 African Union countries in African are parties to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
12. During the Death Penalty meeting in Kigali above, a number of African countries affirmed their commitment towards accelerating the consultation processes on the complete abolition of the death penalty. Amongst those countries are Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. I also noted that in accelerating the process towards the abolition of the death penalty, in Mali a bill was proposed by the Council of Ministers since 2007 and is to be examined by the National Assembly shortly and in Tunisia the Council of Ministers of the interim government approved on 1st February 2011, the accession of Tunisia to a series of international conventions and protocols including one on the abolition of the death penalty.
13. I will like to remind States Parties to the African Charter that capital punishment is cruel and inhumane and represents a most grave violation of fundamental human rights in particular the right to life under Article 4 of the African Charter.
14. I will therefore like to urge State parties to the African Charter, who have not yet done so, to observe a moratorium on the death penalty in line with the United Nations and African Commission’s Resolutions on the moratorium and also to take measures to abolish the Death Penalty.
15. I will also like to urge states parties which started consultations to accelerate the process of consultation on the death penalty and give proper orientations for the abolition of the death penalty.