New tools to raise awareness on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa

Press release
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Paris, Gaborone – November 8, 2017 – In Africa, more than 80% of countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, with only 10 countries executing within the past decade, said FIDH and DITSHWANELO in their joint study, “Triggers for the abolition of the death penalty in Africa: a Southern African perspective”.

The 36 pages study identifies the triggers leading to the abolition of the death penalty in Africa. It was released simultaneously with a documentary called #Gambia has decided which shows the current abolitionist process experienced in The Gambia.

“Although the process that leads to the abolition of the death penalty is unique in each country, the campaign is fought around the world and we believe that success is most achievable by working together and sharing experiences. This study and documentary are meant to contribute to this effort”, said Alice Mogwe, FIDH Secretary General and DITSHWANELO Executive Director.

Compared to the rest of the world, Africa has one of the lowest execution rates per capita. This can be explained by the fact that multiple factors are triggering an abolitionist trend all across the continent. The Southern Africa perspective developed in the study shows that the region is moving in the right direction of abolition since the only country that still regularly executes is Botswana.

The overwhelming majority of countries which have abolished the death penalty in Africa, have done so following years or sometimes decades of political transition. The Gambian experience exposed in the documentary clearly illustrates how, after 22 years of dictatorship, the democratically elected authorities have decided to engage in a wide range of legal reforms, which include abolishing the death penalty.

The study and documentary illustrate how the struggle for the abolition of the death penalty in Africa has mobilised a wide range of actors that have included judges, lawyers, parliamentarians, trade unionists or youth movements.

FIDH, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), and DITSHWANELO reiterate their total opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.


The study and documentary were officially launched on November 5th 2017, during the 61th Session of the ACHPR. The panel discussion gathered a number of actors including Madam Kayitesi Z. Sylvie, Chairperson of the ACHPR Working Group on Death Penalty and Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary killings in Africa. Among the strategies foreseen by the ACHPR Working Group on the death penalty to achieve continental abolition is the adoption, by the African Union, of a Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa. The adoption of such a Protocol will ultimately constitute another trigger for the continental abolition.

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