Statement of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), the International Federation of Action by Christian for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH, and Penal Reform International (PRI)

    Honorable Chair,

    Distinguished Delegates,

    Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Penal Reform International, all members of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty would like to thank you for the opportunity to address the plenary.

    Madame Chair,

    We note that the United nations General Assembly adopted resolution 67/176 in December 2012 which called for a moratorium on the death penalty. It was the fourth such text adopted by the UN since 2007. By its terms, the UN General Assembly called on Member States to progressively restrict the death penalty’s use and not impose capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age and pregnant women. States were also called on to the number of offences for which the death might be imposed.

    The resolution was adopted with a record vote of 111 states in favour to 41 against, with 34 abstentions. We note that 23 African Unions states[1] voted in favour of this resolution, 8 African Union states[2] voted against it, and 22 obtained or were not absent.

    We urge all African Union states to not only implement UN resolution 67/176 by establishing a moratorium on executions and sentencing with a view to abolishing it, but also to take steps to contribute to the Human Rights Council discussion on the question of the death penalty. 

    Madam Chair,

    On the occasion of the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission, we would like to recall the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and reaffirm the purposes and principles of the Charter, in particular its Articles 3, 4 and 19.

    We are deeply concerned at the negative impact of the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty on the rights of children of parents sentenced to death or executed.

    The suffering associated with a death sentence or execution does not remain restricted to the individual convict, but can also be inflicted on their children. Both mental and physical health and wellbeing are affected by the incarceration of a parent in the first place. However, the sentence and implementation of a death penalty means that such children also have to endure the ever present and mounting anguish of the death of one of their parents.

    On top of that, in many countries, the location of death row is often in an era which limits opportunities for visits of family members, either due to distance or cost. Furthermore, as death row prisoners are usually kept under a tight security regime, often children will not be able to touch or hold their parent.

    Very often, the child will not know in advance about the date of the execution and will not have a chance to say good-bye to their parent. If an execution takes place in public, the child will be humiliated alongside the prisoner under sentence of death.

    Moreover, in many retentionist states the child will not receive information about the remains of an executed parent, and the body may not be returned for burial, or the burial ground will not be disclosed to the family, which can make the grieving process especially acute.

    Finally, following a death sentence or an execution, the children then has to live with the stigma, discrimination and shame from having a parent executed, as well as dealing with the heightened media attention which can lead to feelings of exposure, humiliation and isolation.

    Madam Chair,

    Last month the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution which acknowledged the negative impact of a parent’s death sentence and his or her execution on his or her children, and urged States to provide those children with the protection and assistance they may require. It called upon States to provide those children with access to their parents and to all relevant information about the situation of their parents, and has decided to convene, at its 24th session (September 2013), a panel discussion on this topic.

    In recognition of the African Commission’s commitments to the rights and welfare of the child, we would urge the Commission and States to also acknowledge the impact of a parent’s death sentence and his or her execution on his or her children, and to support the work of the UN Human Rights Council to find ways and means to ensure that children of parents sentenced to death or executed have the full enjoyment of their rights.

    We would like to urge States that retain the death penalty in Africa to give additional consideration to the best interests of the child in relation to their parents sentenced to death or executed. 

    Madame Chair,

    Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Penal Reform International urge all African Union States, while continuing to move towards full abolition of the death penalty, to impose a moratorium on the Imposition of death sentences and the carrying out of executions, and the meantime, to take steps in law and practice to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, including at a minimum, the number of persons sentenced to death, the number of persons on death row and the number of executions carried out, to commute death sentences already passed into fixed-term sentences, depending on the gravity of the circumstances of the offence; and to refrain from resuming executions once they have a moratorium in place.

    We hope that this will give helpful impulses to the delegates, and we would like to wish all of you a successful discussion. 

    Thank you for your attention, Madam Chair.


    [1] Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Togo and Tunisia.

    [2] Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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