The Advocates for Human Rights, along with The Society for Human Rights and Development Organisation (SHRDO) and The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, submitted a joint stakeholder report on the death penalty in Sierra Leone for the 38th Session of the Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review.
During its last Universal Periodic Review in 2016, Sierra Leone accepted all recommendations regarding abolition of the death penalty, as well as recommendations regarding the related issues of access to justice and detention conditions. Sierra Leone has not taken meaningful steps to implement those recommendations. It has not signed or ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Sierra Leone has also not abolished the death penalty in law or established a moratorium on the death penalty. While it has not carried out any executions, Sierra Leone has continued to issue new death sentences. Death-eligible crimes include murder, treason, robbery with aggravation, and mutiny (in a military context). The government carries out death sentences by hanging for civilian executions and by firing squad for military executions.
Popular support for abolition of the death penalty may have weakened in Sierra Leone due to increasing crime rates and gang activity, and the government of Sierra Leone is reconsidering the use of capital punishment in an effort to alleviate these issues. The justice system in Sierra Leone continues to suffer from delays, lack of access, and improper influences. Despite efforts to improve the quality and infrastructure of detention centers, conditions remain poor with severe overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, inedible food, and poor healthcare. Several people have died as a result of these conditions.
The joint stakeholder report for the Universal Period Review suggests several recommendations for the Sierra Leonian Government including:
Abolish the death penalty in law and replace it with a sentence that is fair, proportionate, and in compliance with international human rights standards.
Strictly limit any use of the death penalty to the most serious crimes involving intentional killing.
Impose an immediate, official moratorium on the issuance of new death sentences, and a stay of execution for any previously imposed death penalty sentences.
Sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
Ensure that each person potentially eligible for a death sentence or other significant sentence is represented by competent counsel at all stages of judicial proceedings and while pursuing relief under the prerogative of mercy, regardless of the person’s ability to pay for legal representation
Reform the judicial system to guarantee its independence and ability to administrate justice
Improve detention conditions in order to ensure compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules, particularly with respect to food, health care, sanitation, and quarantine measures, so as to minimize the risk of spread of COVID-19.
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