Earlier this month, at Cotonou, Benin, a Continental Conference was convened to finalise an optional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the abolition of the Death Penalty. The final communiqué of the conference (“Cotonou Declaration”) calls upon African states to adopt that Protocol.
This was the culmination of a process in which CGHR Director Sharath Srinivasan and Research Associate Thomas Probert participated almost a year ago in Pretoria (pictured). At that time a joint meeting was convened between the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions—with whom CGHR collaborates on research concerning the right to life—and the African Commission’s Working Group on Death Penalty and Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings, to consider a working draft of the Protocol.
According the recent survey of unlawful killings presented by the Working Group to the African Commission’s 55th Ordinary Session in Angola (available here), 17 African states have abolished the death penalty through national legislation and a further 25 states have not carried out an execution in more than 10 years. Despite this promising trend, the issue remains a concern on the continent (with executions in at least five countries in 2013 and death sentences in more than 20). CGHR’s recent study on Unlawful Killings in Africa (available here) dedicated a chapter to this issue.
The idea of a regional legal instrument expressly abolishing the death penalty achieved significant support from civil society: 78 human rights organisations have put their name to a Manifesto for a Protocol to the African Charter on the abolition of the death penalty (available here).