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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement on the 17th World Day against the Death Penalty


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 17th World Day against the Death Penalty with a focus on children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed.

The Commission has been monitoring the trends and developments towards the abolition of the death penalty in Africa, through its Working Group on Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa (the Working Group) and has noted with satisfaction the progress made so far in this regard.

In Africa, the number of executions and death sentences has dropped generally, overtime. However, the Commission is concerned that the death penalty is still in the criminal laws of twenty-three (23) African States and at least ten (10) States have carried out executions within the last ten (10) years. In that regard, the Commission would like to seize the opportunity of this year’s theme to emphasize the effects of the death penalty on children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed.

The Commission wishes to recall that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Charter) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) provide obligations for States Parties to take necessary steps, in the best interest of the child, to recognise, protect and realise the rights enshrined in the Charter and the Convention respectively such as the child’s right to survival and development, to health which includes mental health and health services, to parental care and protection and to special protection and assistance when separated from his/her parent(s).

The Commission observes that there is a dearth of legal, administrative and institutional framework to address the psychological trauma of children whose parents were executed or sentenced to death in the retentionist States on the Continent. These children are mostly forgotten and sometimes rejected because of stigma yet, they are in dire need of psycho-social support, care and assistance.

As we commemorate the 17th World Day against the Death Penalty, the Commission not only calls on the retentionist States Parties to take steps to abolish the death penalty, but also urges them to mitigate the effects of the practice on children of the persons sentenced to death or executed, by providing them with the necessary psychological and material support and assistance.

African Children are the future of Africa and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our laws are strengthened, and adequate measures are put in place for our children to become psychologically balanced adults who will contribute to the development and greatness of our Continent.

The Commission reaffirms its commitment to continue to work with all its stakeholders and partners to raise awareness for the abolition of the death penalty in Africa.

The Commission also reiterates its call to States Parties that have not yet ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to do so and to harmonise their national laws accordingly to protect these children.

 

10 October 2019