Groups Urge End to Capital Punishment | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Groups Urge End to Capital Punishment

Posted: Apr 12, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
  • As 2015 Goes Without Execution

 Chukwudi Nweje


Anti-death penalty activists in Nigeria are celebrating one year without any executions and hope it marks a step closer to actualising their campaign for the total abolition of the death penalty from the country’s law.

Under the extant Laws of the Federation, certain categories of crime are punishable by death. However, activists have clamoured for the abolition of the death penalty and argue that justice be executed and not people because life is sacred.

Although Nigeria still upholds capital punishment, no executions have been carried out since 2013.

Nigerian anti-Death Penalty Group (NDEPELG), recently released the 6th volume of its newsletter, ‘Dismissing The Hangman’ as part of its campaign for the moratorium or total abolishment of the use of the death penalty in Nigeria.

The release of the newsletter coincided with the report by the Amnesty International (AI), entitled ‘Death Sentences and Executions in 2015’ which noted that 2015 recorded the highest number of executions worldwide in 25 years.

It indicated that the number of executions worldwide rose by 54%, with at least 573 more people killed than in 2014.

However, Nigeria did not carry out any execution, despite death sentences imposed by Nigeria’s judiciary and the courts.

To the contrary, Nigeria has in recent times been commuting death sentences to prison terms.

For instance, in December, 2015, the death sentences imposed on 66 soldiers by a court martial in 2014 were commuted to 10 years’ imprisonment each.

Also on 28 May 2015, one Moses Akatugba was pardoned after 10 years on death row.

AI in its report noted that though executions spiked in 2015, they were counterbalanced by a spate of abolitions by four countries that abolished the death penalty for all crimes, “the highest number to do so in the space of one year for almost a decade,” the report said.

The four countries that abolished the death penalty include Madagascar in January 2015, Fiji in February, the South American state of Suriname in March and Congo in November. Mongolia adopted a new Criminal Code outlawing the death penalty for all crimes in December which will enter fully into law in September 2016.

Even the USA, which continued to flout international law by executing people with mental disabilities, nonetheless continued its march towards abolition. Pennsylvania abolished the death penalty for all crimes bringing the total number of US states that have abolished the death penalty to 18.

“These developments are a clear indication that the trend towards abolition remains strong. Today, 102 countries – half the world – have turned their backs on the death penalty for good. Add to these countries which have abolished this punishment in practice, as opposed to law, and the total comes to two-thirds of the world.

“Those that continue to execute are a tiny minority standing against a wave of opposition. These few countries have a choice to make – stay rooted in a system that values retribution over rehabilitation, or joins the well-worn path to abolition and embrace the principle of every individual’s right to life,” the report said.