Death Penalty Introduced for New Crimes: Blatant Violation of the Country’s International Commitments

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Liberia, Liberia Watch for Human Rights (LWHR) are deeply concerned by the adoption, by the Liberian Senate of a bill introducing the death penalty for new crimes, contrary to Liberia’s international commitments.

On July 16th, 2008, the Liberian Senate passed a bill introducing the death penalty for those responsible for armed-robbery, hijacking and terrorism; thus violating Liberia’s commitment to «take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction» [1] pursuant to its signature, in 2005, of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

This bill also contravenes to the provisions of the 1999 resolution adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) urging states to envisage a moratorium on death penalty and represents a great step back after the adoption, on December 18th 2007, by the General Assembly of the United Nations of a Resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty [2] , which Liberia did not voted against.

The bill’s proponents consider that the introduction of the death penalty for new crimes will allow the country to address effectively the growing crime issue faced by Liberians. If the country is indeed subject to increasing violence – even the United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in Liberia expressed her deep concerns regarding the rule of law and the continued increase in armed robberies [3] ; there is no clear evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other forms of punishment. Moreover, this bill goes against the general trend towards the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, notably on the African continent.

«While we are deeply concerned at the high level of crime that prevails in our country, we firmly oppose the death penalty in all cases believing it to legitimize an irreversible act of violence by the state. The fight against crime and impunity in Liberia should begin with far-reaching reforms to strengthen the judicial system in accordance with the country’s international obligations» declared Thompson Ade-Bayor, Executive Director of Liberia Watch for Human Rights.

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