The European Union welcomes the commitment of President Julius Maada Bio and the unanimous bipartisan vote in the Parliament of Sierra Leone on Friday 23 July to abolish the death penalty. Once enacted into law by the President, Sierra Leone will join the majority of countries in the world having abolished the death penalty.
The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and no compelling evidence exists to show that it serves as a deterrent to crime, while any miscarriages of justice are irreversible. The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty and will continue to work for its abolition in the few remaining countries that still apply it.
The abolition of the Death Penalty Act 2021, has eliminated capital punishment for persons convicted for crimes such as murder, treason and aggravated robbery. This marks a significant milestone in Sierra Leone’s Human Rights agenda as she joins other progressive nations, becoming 110th country in the world to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
The EU remains a strong voice to support the eradication of the death penalty from Sierra Leone, providing support to civil society organisations advocating for legislative reforms and to guarantee and respect the right to life of persons convicted for capital offences under the country’s laws.
“We are pleased with the Government of Sierra Leone’s decision to abolish the use of capital punishment in all circumstances. This is a significant milestone for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Sierra Leone. To respect human life is a critical component in preserving democratic culture. The EU attaches great importance to strengthening the rule of law, human rights, and the consolidation of democracy across the world. I wish to congratulate the Government, Parliament and the President for this bold step,” says Tom Vens, EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone.
Prior to its abolition, Sierra Leone has witnessed a steady increase in recorded death sentences although a death penalty moratorium was upheld in 2020. However, there have not been any executions since October 1998. By the end 2020, there were 78 people, all male, on death row, an increase of over 50% from August 2019. Recent sentences from the Kabala High Court Circuit session saw one woman sentenced to death by hanging.
Over the years the EU has joined hands with many others to advocate for and support the abolition of the death penalty and to create more space for the promotion and defence of human rights. This culminated in the unanimous vote by Parliament to abolish the death penalty; it is a powerful sign of the commitment towards a partnership based on shared values.