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Death penalty is dead and buried

July 26, 2021

By Jariatu S Jusu

After heated debate from both isle of the House with consultations and inputs from interested civil society organizations and some members of the public, Members of Parliament on Friday unanimously abolished the death penalty from the law books of Sierra Leone, albeit with no safeguards to lessen the rate of killing in the country.

The Abolition of Death Penalty Act seeks to abolish death penalty in the case of persons convicted in Sierra Leone of murder under the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, robbery with aggravation under the Larceny Act, 1916, mutiny under the Sierra Leone Military Forces Act, 1961, treason and related offences under the Treason and State Offences Act 1963, and to make alternative provisions for the punishment of persons so convicted and to provide for other related matters.

Members of Parliament, however, argued over the 30 years life imprisonment for any person found guilty of murder or any other crime in Sierra Leone.

On his part, Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) argued that life imprisonment is too minimal for murder, robbery with aggravation and manslaughter.

He stated that there is nowhere in the Act where the drafters defined life imprisonment, although it is defined in other law book as a way in which a person spends his entire life span in jail after sentencing.

He argued that if enacted, the law will create room for  the increase rate of murder in the country and that perpetrators might just spend 30 years in jail, which is equivalent to 23 years as per law and then be left on the street to roam about freely.

Hon. Agibola Manly-Spain of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) also argued that sentencing someone for life could be equivalent to death penalty; hence a specified figure should be provided so that the perpetrator could be corrected during his jail term and then gives back beneficiary aids to society after his service.

Leader of Government Business, Hon. Matthew Nyuma, suggested that sentencing should be left with the court to decide for other cases, but the 30 years should be set for murder offences in order to follow international best practices.

“Sierra Leone has joined 119 countries in the world that have abolished the death penalty, including 21 countries in Africa. Therefore, the House should see reason to pass into law the Abolition of  Death Penalty in the country,” he urged.

Hon. Ishmail Sama Sandy of the SLPP stated that many people across the country are against the abolition of death penalty, but because they wanted to follow international best practices and the country wanted to join others that have deleted it from their law books, there was need that safeguards be provided to mitigate killing in the country.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Y. Brewah advised that there should be a figure tagged to the jail term for perpetrators rather than leaving it to life imprisonment.

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