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Sierra Leone News: Govt. rejects CRC recommendation to abolish death penalty

In the newly released White Paper on the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) Report, the government indicated that it will retain the death penalty in Section 16 (1) of the 1991 Constitution.
The CRC report was presented to the President on 24th January 2017, with several recommendations of which was a call for the abolition of the death penalty, under the theme Protection of Right to Life.
The Section reads… “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Sierra Leone, of which he has been convicted.”
During consultations with Parliamentarians, they were in favour of abolishing the death penalty completely. The CRC also took account of numerous position papers including that of the HRCSL that had been received, and the responses from nationwide consultations where there was a clear majority call for the abolition of the death penalty.
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) 2014 report recommended that the government and the CRC should implement the TRC and the Universal periodic Review recommendations for the abolition of the death penalty.
They also urged government through the office of the Attorney general to sign the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on the abolition of the death penalty.
In May 2014, Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo told the United Nations that Sierra Leone intended to abolish capital punishment in law and that the death sentences of the country’s last death row prisoners had been commuted to life imprisonment.
In the HRCSL 2016 report, they reported that they were concerned about statement made on radio by the Internal Affairs Minister Palo Conteh, on 21st October that the gallows would be tested and prepared in readiness for use. A mock execution was subsequently done at the Freetown Male Correctional Centre on 25th October, which was viewed on television.
The death penalty in Sierra Leone indicates that murder, treason, and aggravated robbery are death-eligible. Hanging and shooting is the method provided by law for any execution.
The Government’s response was that the CRC plenary did not have a quorum of members when they were voting on the recommendation around abolishing the death penalty. “Further, the recommendation is not representative of the views of the members of the CRC who voted twenty-three to eighteen in favour of retaining the death penalty…”
As a result, the government says it will maintain the death penalty as a deterrent to heinous crimes against humanity.
Despite the government stance to maintain the death penalty, the last known execution was carried out by firing squad in October 1998, where they publicly executed 24 soldiers for taking part in a military coup.
In 2010, there were 13 prisoners on death row. Recent presidential pardons contributed to emptying death row, according to Amnesty International, there were no prisoners on death row by the end of 2012.
A man was sentenced to death in 2013 (the first death sentence since 2011) and was the only person under sentence of death until recently.
By Zainab Joaque
Monday November 27, 2017.

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