BENIN: PAN-AFRICAN CONFERENCE ON ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY CONCLUDES
July 4, 2014: It ended today, the Continental Conference on the Abolition of the death penalty in Africa convened in Cotonou, the capital of Benin, by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights with the ministerial meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Bako-Arifari Nassirou.
The Chairman of the Working Group of the African Commission working on the death penalty, Sylvie Kayetesi Zianabo, summed up for the ministers, the first two days of work of the Conference. She pointed out the number of contributions from all regions of Africa and by both continental and international experts on the draft protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights, which should be finally adopted in October in Niger, and on national strategies for the abolition or suspension of executions.
The Minister of Justice of Benin, Djenontin-Agossou Valentin, has welcomed government delegations on behalf of the president Yayi Boni.
He recalled what were the significant steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in Benin, and what is the role Benin wants to play at the continental level, where it proposed the establishment of an African observatory on the death penalty, and at the international level in the global mobilization to achieve the abolition of the death penalty in the world.
Benin believes that the death penalty can not be assumed as a deterrent to crime, but crime, small or big, can be defeated with the certainty of law and penalties. The government has initiated a process to revise its Penal Code, which should include the creation of a national institution devoted entirely to prisons, to facilitate the full recovery of the detainees.
He then took the floor, the Minister of Justice of Madagascar, Noeline Ramanantenasoa, who confirmed the vote and the co-sponsorship of the resolution on the universal moratorium on the death penalty at the UN. She also announced that in the coming days will be presented to parliament by the President of the National Assembly, a bill to abolish the death penalty, which will be discussed at the end of the summer.
Madagascar has also announced its strong support for the draft additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which provides for the abolition of the death penalty.
Quartay Thomas Kwesi, Ambassador, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, recalled how the process of revising the constitution of his country is finished with a series of recommendations to the Government and Parliament all against the continuation of the death penalty.
Government and Parliament have accepted the recommendations, and by the autumn, there will be a referendum to confirm the changes. Depending also on the outcome of the referendum, Ghana will decide how to vote at the United Nations.
Bouguetaia Mohamed Abdelaziz spoke on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria. He recalled how, in spite of the death penalty has not been abolished and even death sentences are issued, the country still maintains the moratorium, and in fact the country will co-sponsor and vote in favor of the resolution at the United Nations. Algeria has also announced its support for the draft additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
They then intervened the Ambassadors of Italy, France and the European Union. The Ambassador Fulvio Rustico congratulated Benin for regional leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Rustico announced full Italian support, even as presidency of the European Union, to all African initiatives that in the coming months will be held to consolidate the voting bloc of the continent in favor of the resolution on the moratorium.
Ambassador Aline Kuster Manager recalled that the abolition of the death penalty in France, thanks to Robert Badinter, remains an example of how you can get in a politically radical overhaul of the administration of justice with broad popular support.
The session was ended by the intervention of Marco Perduca, the representative of the Radical Party at the United Nations. Perduca, speaking on behalf of Hands Off Cain, thanked the delegations, and expressed the hope that in the final declaration should take up all the appeals and suggestions developed in the three days of work. He recalled how HOC has decided to honor the leadership of Benin giving the Abolitionist of the Year Award for 2014, which will be delivered in Rome on 18 July this year in the hands of the President of the Republic.
Works were then continued with the adoption of the Declaration of Cotonou, which was endorsed by the participants, by acclamation.
They then followed other five speeches of representatives of the various sectors of civil society that have confirmed their commitments for the coming months. Eventually also the NGOs adopted a declaration of civil society.