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 48th Ordinary Session in November 2010 and the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. These activities include: Promotion missions, meetings and seminars, letters sent and Urgent Appeals.
Activities undertaken as Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa
9. During the intersession, the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Africa forwarded Letters of Appeal on the situation of the Death Penalty to:
- His Excellency, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 10 January 2011, following information recieved which indicated that no fewer than five female inmates at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison in Apapa, Lagos State, are awaiting execution early in 2011. 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 persons.
- His Excellency, President of the Republic of Sudan on 10 January 2011, following information received which indicate that four minors namely, Ibrahim Shrief (17), Abdalla Abadalla Doub (16), Altyeb Mohamed Yagoup (16), and Abdarazig Abdelseed (15) have been sentenced to death, among nine people sentenced for carjacking in Khour Baskawit in South Darfur. The letter urged His Excellency's Government to review its child rights laws in line with the absolute prohibition of the death sentence of children under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other regional and international treaties. The letter further urged the State to observe a moratorium on executions and to take all necessary measures to ensure that persons facing the death sentence are not executed.
- His Excellency, President of the Republic of The Gambia on 10 January 2011, following information which indicate that the Drug Control Amendment Act 2010, the Trafficking in Persons Amendment Act 2010 and the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2010, extend the scope of the application of capital punishment to human trafficking, robbery , rape and drug related offences. The letter urged the State to take all necessary measures to refrain from signing these amendments in order to keep these laws from coming into force, so as to respect international human rights standards and principles, including the African Commission's own Resolutions, and that the Government initiates consultations on the complete abolition of the death penalty.
Interaction with Partners on the issue of the Death Penalty
10. On 26 February 2011, the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty interacted with the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), an organization in Spain, through its letter of February 2011. She expressed her appreciation of the ICDP's objective of securing an abolition of the death penalty, which is in tandem with that of the Working Group on the Death Penalty of the African Commission. Commissioner Kayitesi also pledged the willingness of the Working Group to collaborate with the ICDP in promoting the abolition of the death penalty, particularly in Africa.
11. This dialogue continued during the margins of the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission. Commissioner Kayitesi had a meeting with the Secretary General of the International Commission on the Death Penalty, Madam Asunta Vivo Cavaller. The Commissioner and the Secretary General discussed the various objectives and work of both institutions and exchanged ideas about how to work together to push the agenda on the abolition of the death penalty forward. They also discussed on the various ways of how to collaborate in promoting the abolition of the death penalty in Africa.
Meeting of the Working Group on Death Penalty
12. From 24 to 26 March 2011, the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty attended the 5th Meeting of the Working Group on the Death Penalty in Johannesburg, South Africa. The meeting was organised to finalise the Document on "The Study of the Question of the Death Penalty in Africa" for presentation to the African Commission at its 49th Ordinary Session, scheduled to take place from 28 April to 12 May 2011, in Banjul, The Gambia.
Situation of Death Penalty in Africa
13. During the intersession, Commissioner Kayitesi continued to follow up on the situation of the death penalty in Africa. It was noted that no country in African has abolished the death penalty during the intersession and the situation remains the same. The statistics indicate that thirty-eight (38) African countries retain the death penalty in their statute books although in fourteen (14) of these countries there is a moratorium on executions and some death sentences are at times commuted to various terms of imprisonment.1 Also only about 82 out of the current 53 African Union countries in African are parties to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
14. The Commissioner will like to remind States Parties to the African Charter that capital punishment is cruel and therefore morally unjustifiable, unnecessary, irreversible, illogical; and represents a most grave violation of fundamental human rights in particular the right to life under Article 4 of the African Charter. She would 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 and also to take measures to abolish it.
note 1. The States that have as of December 2010 abolished the death penalty are 17 in number: Angola (1992),Cape Verde (1981), Cote d'Ivoire (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), Sierra Leone (..... ), Seychelles (1993), South Africa (1995) and Togo (2010.). The year in bracket indicates when the penalty was abolished. It is of no small interest to note that all the Lusophone countries, the former Portuguese colonies, have abolished the death penalty. This may be attributed to colonial influence, for Portugal abolished the death penalty in 1852 for political crimes, in 1867 for ordinary crimes and in 1976 for all offences. Apparently Portugal did not introduce the death penalty in its colonies and when these achieved independence they did not introduce that penalty in their legislation, except for Guinea-Bissau that did so for a brief period (1974-1993).
note 2. South Africa, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and Seychelles.