10 October 2012 marks World Day Against the Death Penalty
- The TRC recommended that Sierra Leone abolish the death penalty.
“Respect for human dignity and human rights must begin with respect for human life. Everyone has the right to life. A society that accords the highest respect for human life is unlikely to turn on itself.”
- The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which considered cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, did not have the power to impose the death penalty. The death penalty should be abolished as otherwise ordinary citizens are treated more harshly than convicted war criminals.
- Many countries across the world have abolished the death penalty: 141 countries are abolitionist in law or practice.
- Countries with similar histories of civil conflict, such as Liberia, Rwanda and Burundi, have abolished the death penalty.
- The death penalty is a violation of various international human rights standards.
- The deterrent effect of the death penalty has never been conclusively proven. A 2009 survey of US criminologists revealed that over 88% believed the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder.
- The death penalty is irrevocable. No justice system is perfect. Innocent people could, therefore, be sentenced to death. For example, AdvocAid has conducted successful appeals for two women on death row whose convictions were overturned. But limited legal aid services mean that many more innocent people could be sentenced to death.
- The death penalty is unfair. It is often used disproportionally against the poor, mentally ill and those who are unaware of their legal rights.
- Constitutional Courts in Uganda and Kenya have held that the mandatory death sentence for certain crimes is unconstitutional as it does not allow judges to take into account the individual mitigating circumstances of individuals. In Sierra Leone, the death penalty is mandatory for murder. A judge, therefore, has no choice and cannot impose any other sentence in such cases.
- In 2011 the Government issued an official moratorium on all executions. This hugely significant step was applauded by civil society and the international community. The next step must be to abolish the death penalty completely in law and practice.
AdvocAid is a civil society organisation which provides access to justice and strengthened rights for girls and women in conflict with the law. We have provided legal representation for several girls and women on death row as well as welfare, rehabilitation and after care services. For more information, please visit www.advocaidsl.com or our Head Office, 1st Floor, 39 Liverpool Street, Freetown, 033 572526.