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Day against death penalty:

EU Condemns Capital Punishment

October 10, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi 

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The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, have in a joint declaration condemned the death penalty as punishment for certain offences.

Ahead of European and World Day against Death Penalty (today), the duo noted that “the Council of Europe and the European Union reaffirmed their strong and unequivocal opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and for all cases,” adding that death penalty was incompatible with human dignity and constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.

The debate over the death penalty has been heated in Sierra Leone, with both sides doggedly holding on to their position. The debate was heightened after Justice Alusine Sesay pronounced the death sentence against Baimba Moi-Foray, a.k.a. La Chocolate, and his sidekick Foday Amara Kamara alias G-FAK, following their conviction for murder. They were charged with murder after what prosecutors and forensic expert say was the decomposing body of popular disc jockey Sydney Buckle, known fondly as DJ Clef, was found very close to the Murray Town cemetery on August 15, 2015.

The debate over whether or not to retain the death penalty in our law books was further intensified after Minister of Internal Affairs, Retired Major Paolo Conteh, said the gallows at Pedemba Road correctional centre had been prepared for possible use, in the wake of rampant gang activities in the capital Freetown and other provincial cities.

But the EU’s Federica Mogherini and Council of Europe’s Thorbjørn Jagland have  jointly stated  that the abolition of death penalty is a distinctive achievement in Europe, with all European Union and Council of Europe Member States having abolished it.

“Abolition of the death penalty in law or in practice is a prerequisite for membership of the Council of Europe and the absolute ban on the death penalty under all circumstances is inscribed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Reintroduction of the death penalty by any member State would be contrary to the fundamental values and obligations underlying both Organisations. The Council of Europe and the European Union call on all European States to ratify the protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibit the death penalty,” they stated.

The Council of Europe and the European Union reiterated their strong call on all the countries of the world still carrying out the death penalty to establish without delay a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition, and to commute remaining death sentences to prison terms.

“All those countries remain in any event bound by international law and must thus refrain, inter alia, from carrying out executions on minors, on persons with mental illness or intellectual disabilities, or in cases other than for the most serious crimes (notably, executions shall not be carried out on persons convicted of economic or drug trafficking offences). Also, no execution should take place without appropriate information being communicated to the individual’s next-of-kin and lawyers,” the release stated.

They welcomed the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment, which has already resulted in more than two-thirds of all countries having abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

Sierra Leone has not officially banned the death penalty, but the Koroma-led administration put a moratorium of the use of the death penalty, which earned him an Amnesty International award in 2012 as ‘abolitionist of the year’.

However, his government has been ambivalent as to whether to abolish capital punish, with his Minister of Internal Affairs being a chief proponent of retaining the death penalty.