-Celebrate World Day Against Death Penalty
By Mark N. Mengonfia
The European Union and other partners have called on the Liberian Government to repeal the Penal Code that talks about death penalty.
This year’s celebration marks the 17th anniversary of the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
Liberia has since acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which calls for the abolition of the death penalty in 2005 and increased the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty in its legislation in 2008.
It still remains a point to concentrate on that despite advocacy and lobbying with the Liberia Legislature and other relevant government institutions for the repeal of the 2008 law that allows the death penalty, practical action is yet to be taken by the government of Liberia that will lead to its abolition.
Several local and international partners have lamented that death sentences are still handed down by courts in the country.
The World Day Against the Death Penalty is celebrated on October 10 every year, but the European Union and other partners including the Swedish Embassy, Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR), Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, ACAT-Liberia, Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) celebrated the day on October 29, 2019 at the auditorium of the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
Delivering a keynote address at the program, European Union Ambassador to Liberia, Helene Cave said” We call on Liberia to move forward towards the abolition of death penalty in its law and join the group of more than 100 countries that have already done so”.
Giving a statistic about countries that have abolished death penalty from their laws, the EU Ambassador said there is a worldwide trend towards abolition of death penalty, saying between 1993 and 2018, the number of countries that abolished the death penalty in their laws for all crimes, grew considerably.
She informed the gathering of civil society organizations, student leaders, lecturers and government officials who graced the event that at the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in their law and 142 countries had abolished it in their laws or practice.
“Eighty-four (84) countries including Liberia, were party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty,” the EU Ambassador stressed.
She also said “Death Penalty leaves children with heavy emotional and psychological burden that can amount to the violation of their human rights. One of such violations is stigmatization from the community in which they live. Stigma and loss of a parent at the hands of a state may reinforce deep instability in the life of a child. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers”.
Also speaking was Charles Lawrence, Program Officer for Governance and Human Rights at the Swedish Embassy and he proxy for Swedish Ambassador, Ingrid Wetteqvist.
Reading a prepared text from Ambassador Wetteqvist, Mr. Lawrence described death penalty as an inhumane and degrading punishment contrary to the right to life.
The Swedish Ambassador said through her proxy that “death penalty means revenge, not justice, and its abolition contributes to enhancement of human dignity”.
Additionally, he indicated that “Sweden abolished the death penalty almost 100 years ago in 1921 when in times of peace and in 1976 when in time of war; Liberia should join this movement”
He on behalf of his boss said it should not be forgotten that the death penalty is irreversible indicating that even in the best judicial system, mistakes can be made, and innocent people can be wrongly judged.
As part of the event, a panel discussion was held taking a close look at the children whose parents fall victims to death penalty.
The World Day Against the Death Penalty is a day set aside to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and to raise awareness of the conditions and the circumstances which affect prisoners with death sentences.
The focus of this year’s celebration is “Children: unseen victims of the death penalty.” Frequently forgotten, children of parents sentenced to death or executed carry a heavy emotional and psychological burden that can amount to the violation of their human rights.
This trauma can occur at any and all stages of the capital punishment of a parent: arrest, trial, sentencing, death row stays, execution dates, execution itself, and its aftermath. The repeated cycles of hope and disappointment that can accompany all of these stages can have a long-term impact, occasionally well into adulthood.