state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 10 December 1996, signed by then President MANDELA and entered into effect on 4 February 1997
legal system: based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law
legislative system: bicameral parliament consisting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces
judicial system: Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts
religion: Christian majority
year of last executions: 0-0-0
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)
The death penalty was abolished in South Africa on June 6, 1995, when the Constitutional Court found that it was inconsistent with the new Constitution. At the time, the South African Press Association reported, there were 453 prisoners on death row.
Throughout its four decades of institutionalized racial discrimination, South Africa had been one of the world's leading execution centres.
The last execution was in 1989, before the government ordered a moratorium on executions in 1990. Parliament formally scrapped the death sentence in December 1997, on approving the Criminal Law Amendment Act and setting out the process for converting existing death sentences. This legislation came into effect on November 13, 1998. Although it made provision for the death penalty to be reviewed and replaced by other punishments, up to 63 prisoners were still reported to be under sentence of death on June 7, 2006. The Department of Justice, whose job it is to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment said it was dealing with the cases one by one. Those still under sentence of death were being held in maximum security prisons scattered around the country.
On December 1, 2006, South Africa's last death row inmate has had his sentence finally commuted to a jail term 11 years.
High crime rates, making South Africa the murder capital of the world, frequently led to calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty, but more effective policing led to a decrease in murders in 2004, according to government statistics.
On December 18, 2008 and December 21st, 2010, South Africa co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.