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‘Death penalty is a violation of right to life’

- says Amnesty Int’l boss

December 17, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone yesterday referred to the death penalty provision in the law books of the country as a violation of the right to life, as well as an ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Solomon Sogbandi was speaking at the Miatta Conference Center during a seminar organized by Manifesto 99 in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Institute for International Law, and Coalition for Justice and Accountability on the Criminal Procedure Act and the abolition of the death penalty as a legacy of the Special Court.

Even though the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has shown much commitment with regards the abolition of the death penalty by putting in place a moratorium, the law continues to be in the country’s law books.

Mr. Sogbandi reckoned that the law erases any attempt with regards the rehabilitation of a prisoner, and that it is irrevocable.

“There is no convincing argument that the death penalty is a deterrent to crimes,” he noted. “Most people believe in the doctrine of an ‘eye for an eye and teeth for tat’. They think by killing somebody who kills serves as a deterrent, but I would say it has never.”

He observed that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report called for the abolition of the death penalty as an imperative recommendation, and that some countries retain the death penalty in their law books but they are deemed to be abolitionist in practice.

Also speaking, Executive Director of Manifesto 99, Abdul Rahim Kamara, described the occasion as a national day against the death penalty, stating that the country has moved from the point where life has no meaning to a point where it has been declared as a de facto abolitionist state.

“We are growing and joining the huge committee of nations that believe in the sanctity of human life, which is guaranteed in our constitution,” he said. “The death penalty is merely a relic of colonialism in Sierra Leone. Our culture didn’t have it before the arrival of our colonial masters.”

According to him, over the years the death penalty has been used exclusively for the elimination of political opponents in Sierra Leone, but stressed that since 1998, nobody has been executed under the provision and wanted the trend to continue.

“The Special Court for Sierra Leone did not have it in its statute as part of its punishment to sentence people to death. Other international tribunals have never used the death penalty,” he added.

Vice President of Parliamentarians for Global Action, Hon. Veronica Sesay, emphasized the need to modernize and modify some of these laws, especially the provision that has to do with the death penalty.

“We believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Let me assure you that we will lobby our colleagues once a legislation on it is tabled before us,” she said.