Fifty participants representing different African Union member states and national human rights commissions have appealed to African countries to emulate Rwanda by abolishing the death penalty from their legal books.
A conference, the first of its kind in Africa, was held in Kigali last week to discuss the question of the death penalty on the continent.
It was organized by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.
The conference participants who also included academics and representatives of different NGOs commended Rwanda for her courageous step in abolishing the death penalty notwithstanding the loss of lives, pain and suffering caused by the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
In 2007, Rwanda became the first country in the Great Lakes region to repeal the death penalty, making it the 100th world-wide to abolish the capital punishment.
Fourteen countries in Africa, including Rwanda are now abolitionist for all crimes and a further 18 are abolitionist in practice.
By the end of the conference, the members agreed to support the abolition of the death penalty by putting emphasis on a formal moratorium that can be adapted on the basis which government can be held accountable.
The participants also recommended the drafting of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa, to fill gaps in the African charter on the inviolability of human life.
“We urge all the AU member countries which have not yet done so to subscribe to Human Rights Instruments that prohibit the death penalty, namely the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the Rome Statute and align national legislation accordingly,” their resolution document says in part.
Mali, Burundi and Togo are the latest countries to abolish death penalty.
Rwanda was represented by Sylvie Zainabo Kayitesi who is the chairperson of the Working Group on the death penalty in Africa.