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MPs demand safeguards to abolish death penalty

July 16, 2021

By Jariatu S. Jusu

While debating the repeal of the abolition of death penalty, Members of Parliament yesterday raised concern that removing it from the country’s law books without providing safeguards will increase the death rate of more innocent lives.

Hon. Foday Mario Kamara of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), said people have been killed for killing others, yet death rate continues to increase and  hasn’t  stop  either, stating that the issue will escalate if the death penalty is removed from the laws of the land.

“When Section 5 of the Public Order Act was repealed, we were promised of safeguards but that has not been done and I don’t think that will ever come. I have a problem with this system, even when the Corona came, we all accepted the one year State of Emergency here and we also agreed to bring in regulations or guidelines, but they never came and now this one,” he stated.

He urged that his colleagues should not try to satisfy the President but rather do what is good for the country.

He said nobody wants one to be defeated especially when one is related to the victim, and that it would not be good for one to use the law to the disadvantage of others.

Hon. Dominic Tsombe of the SLPP said they were in support of the bill, but noted that some cautions were needed to be taken.

He said some killings are done with impunity hence clauses that will impede some crime rate need to be inputted into the bill at the committee stage.

He added that there should be no Presidential Pardon for people who kill others with impunity.

Making his presentation to MPs, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Y. Brewah, said the document was seeking to amend various acts in the jurisprudence of Sierra Leone regarding the abolition of the death penalty.

He said the intention of the bill was not to eliminate the various offences, but to abolish the death penalty as maximum sentence from the country’s law books.

He said among the laws that were to be repealed are Offense Against the Persons Act of 1861, Robbery with Aggravation Act under the Larceny Act 1916, mutiny under the Sierra Leone Military Act 1961, Treason and other related offenses under Treason and State Offenses Act 1963, to make alternative provisions for the punishment of persons so convicted and to provide for other related matters.

He said it seeks to nullify all the provisions in those Acts.

“The punishment is what we are dealing with. Life imprisonment will be used rather than the killing aspect as stated in our law books.”

He assured that when passed into law, no person will be punished by death because certain things would have been done to prevent it upon conviction.

He said they were only asking for the repeal of the punishment and not the offenses committed by the perpetrator.

Hon. Hindolo Ngevao of the SLPP said politicians of yesterday had used the death Penalty law in their favour, stating that it was good that the President was trying to change the democratic situation of the country.

He said over the years, countries have been using the law but that it was good that they have come to realize that it needed to be removed from their law books, adding it was good that former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah placed a moratorium on the issue.

He said innocent people have been killed due to offenses that were not called for.

Hon. Abdul Kargbo of the APC commended President Bio for the move to abolish the death penalty, but noted that the security forces should not use it against rioters in Makeni and other places in the country resulting in deaths.

“For us to know the meaning of what they are doing, it should be noted that people should not be killed for whatever crimes committed. Protesters as well should not be killed. This should be the end to extra judicial killing because police killing has been on the increase,” he said.

He said if the government is serious about repealing the law, their actions should have been felt in the manner in which extra judicial killing was done in the last three years.

”The police should note that this is the end of live rounds, when citizens demonstrate they should not be killed. We should be the watch dogs, not only when sitting as opposition members but even as ruling members of parliament,” he urged.

Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara of the APC called on his colleagues to support the bill, but noted that they should tread cautiously as there should be safeguards.

Hon. Chernoh R. M. Bah recalled that most of the issues raised by MPs were raised during a closed door consultation.

He said the security forces must be engaged for them to know what was going on with the aspiration of the President.

“This is a good opportunity. It is not everything that should be politicized; you have to listen to the opposition for you to do your correction in doing things. It is good that we do things right even in the secret,” he said.

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