Sunday, April 21, 2013

‘Amnesty fears Baba Leigh’s continued detention’

Carte des pays africains selon le statut de la...
Carte des pays africains selon le statut de la peine de mort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amnesty expresses fear about Imam Baba Leigh’s continuous detention in   incommunicado and without charge, the multinational human rights agency said in a statement last week.

The outspoken Muslim cleric and Imam of Kanifing South Mosque was reportedly arrested on 3 December, 2012 by officers of the National Intelligence Agency. He had criticized the Gambia Government on the killing by firing squad of nine death row prisoners two months before his reported abduction. 

The “oral statement on working group on death penalty” was delivered at the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) hosted in Banjul, The Gambia from April 9-23, 2013. 

The August 2012 executions carried out in The Gambia were the first in the country in nearly three decades.

Based on this, Amnesty said it reclassified The Gambia, previously abolitionist in practice, as retentionist.

Death Penalty in Africa


Based on government information, Amnesty gathered that 27 death sentences were imposed in Ghana, all on men convicted of murder, 162 men and four women were under sentence of death at the end of the end of 2012.


Amnesty said at least 21 new death sentences were reported to have been imposed in Kenya and during the last year, at least eight men were sentenced to death for crimes involving robbery and violence, but not intentional killing.


In Liberia, it indicated that four death sentences were handed down and no further steps were taken to bring the country’s laws on the death penalty into compliance with Liberia’s obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


In post Gadafi Libya, Amnesty recorded that the judiciary system resumed operations in 2012 and have since imposed at least five death sentences in November. A military court in Benghazi sentences five former government soldiers to death in absentia for killing and raping civilians, crimes allegedly committed during the 2011 armed conflict.


29 remained on death row, but no executions have been carried out in Malawi since 1992.


The working group on death penalty in Africa noted that six death sentences were imposed in Mauritania, including three on terrorism-related charges. On 15 May, the Court of Appeal upheld the death sentence imposed on Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Ahmednah in March 2011.


Amnesty International urges the African Commission to call on all member States of the African Charter to abolish the death penalty and pending full abolition of the death penalty.

“Member States of the African Charter should immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, as called for by most recently UN General Assembly resolution 67/176, adopted on 20 December 2012,” the multinational agency said.

It added: “Member States should commute without delay all death sentences to terms of imprisonment, and remove all prisoners from special prison facilities, especially death row and transferred to regular institutions of detention appropriate for the age of the offender and the offence committed,” the statement said.

“To immediately remove from their law any death penalty provisions which are in breach of international human rights, such as its mandatory imposition or for crimes which do not meet threshold of “most serious crimes” interpreted by international bodies as being limited to crimes involving intentional killing.

“Should ensure that trials for crimes carrying the death penalty must be comply with the most rigorous internationally recognized standards for fair trial, where that has not been the case the individual must be given re-trial in proceedings which comply with these standards, and without recourse to the death penalty.”

It further stressed that member states must ensure that the inmates themselves, their families and their legal representatives are provided in advance with adequate information about a pending execution, its date, time and location, and must be allow for a last visit or communication of the family with the convicted person, the return of the body to the family for burial after execution or to inform on where the body is located.

It urges member states to take necessary steps to ensure the prompt ratification, without reservations, of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

“They should publicize on an annual basis comprehensive statistic on the death penalty and facts around the administration of justice in death penalty cases, including at a minimum the number of persons sentence to death, the number of person on death row and the number of executions carried out in any calendar year,” the group demands.

Only five of the 54 member states of the African Union carried out executions in 2012. On the regional level, as on the global stage, over 70 percent of states are abolitionist in law or practice, 37 African States are now abolitionist in law (16) or in practice (21), and only 17 are retentionist.

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