Botswana’s champions of capital punishment may find themselves with their backs against the wall after the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) this week adopted a resolution calling on African States to observe a moratorium on the death penalty.
The resolution was adopted at the African Commission’s 44th Ordinary session in Abuja Nigeria. It comes just days after the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly voted for a similar resolution on a moratorium on executions.
The resolution expressed concerns about the failure of some African states “to give effect to the UN resolutions and African Commission’s own 1999 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions,” and about the application of “the death penalty in conditions not respectful of the right to a fair trial guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant international norms”.
By adopting the resolution, the African Commission has aligned itself with the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty, and supported the call for African states that still retain the death penalty to demonstrate commitment to observing a moratorium on executions as the first necessary step towards abolition.
Botswana is one of 18 African countries that have stuck to the death penalty. The other 17 are: Burundi; Cameroon; Chad; Comoros; Congo (Democratic Republic); Egypt;┬á Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Guinea; Lesotho; Libya; Nigeria; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Sudan; Uganda and Zimbabwe.
“The African Commission’s resolution provides a solid basis for individual and collective state action to observe a moratorium on executions towards the eventual abolition of the death penalty,” said Martin MacPherson, Director of Amnesty’s International Law and Organizations Programme.
“In line with the African Commission’s resolution, Amnesty International calls on AU member states to fully support the plenary votes at the UN General Assembly for a resolution on moratorium on executions, which is expected to take place during the week beginning 15 December 2008.
“The African Commission also needs to monitor regularly the implementation of the resolution on the national fronts.┬á African states must also fully support, engage and cooperate with the African Commission’s Working Group on the Death Penalty for it to discharge its mandates effectively and efficiently. They must implement any recommendations by the Working Group.”
The African Commission noted that 27 states parties to the African Charter have abolished the death penalty in law or de facto, while only six have ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.