state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 2 December 1990
legal system: based on French civil law and customary law
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale)
judicial system: Constitutional Court; Supreme Court; High Court of Justice
religion: Christian 42.8%, Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, other 15.5%
year of last executions: 23-9-1987
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (aiming to the abolition of the death penalty)
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
On 5 July 2012, with the deposit of its instrument of accession, Benin has become part of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Although the death penalty remains within its jurisdiction until the criminal laws providing for it are totally repealed, the accession without reservations to the Second Protocol, which entered into full force and effect on 5 October 2012, makes Benin a country totally abolitionist. In fact, under Article 1, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed,” and “Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”
On 18 August 2011, the Country’s National Assembly had voted in favour of ratifying the Second Optional Protocol by an overwhelming majority: 54 votes in favour, five against and six abstentions.
On 17 December 2012, the National Assembly voted for the repeal of death penalty provisions contained in two articles of the new Criminal Procedure Code – adopted in March 2012 –, which were declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court on 4 August. According to the Court, after the accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Benin is committed to respecting the legal instrument aimed at abolishing the death penalty. All remaining death penalty provisions in national legislation was on the agenda parliament for their repeal in 2013.
On 28 February 2009, a year after its creation by presidential decree in February 2008, the ad hoc commission for revision of the 11 December 1990 Constitution (“the Ahanhanzo-Gléglé Commission”) released its report. Article 15 of the revision project of fundamental laws was rephrased in these terms: “Every individual has the right to life, liberty, security and the integrity of their person. (…) none can be sentenced to death.” The revision project must be subject to a national debate and a referendum. Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni has asked the parliament to enshrine the abolition of the death penalty in the constitution. A bill was sent to the National Assembly in November 2009 for discussion and finally adoption.
The death penalty is provided for in the penal code for various offences, including: murder, piracy, treason, sorcery and other practices causing public disturbance.
The last reported executions were carried out on 23 September 1987, when two persons were shot after receiving death sentences for ritual murder.
The last death sentence was handed down in 2010 to a woman sentenced in absentia for murder.
At least 13 people are currently on death row in Akpro Missérété prison. "Their death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment," said the Beninese Minister of Justice, Marie-Elise Gbedo.
On 20 December 2012, Benin co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.