The Parliament of Sierra Leone passed a bill Friday abolishing the death penalty.
If given presidential assent, this law will see the west African country become the 23rd country in the continent to abolish the capital punishment. The country’s legal regime prescribes the death penalty for the offences of murder, treason, mutiny and aggravated robbery. Furthermore, the country’s Criminal Procedure Act decrees that the execution of the penalty shall be by hanging by the neck and shooting by firing squad in the case of court martial.
However, the country has had a moratorium on executions since 1998 after the infamous execution of 24 soldiers for treason. Nonetheless, the death penalty has since been in force, with 99 people on death row as of June 2020. The proponents for the abolishment of the death penalty have decried the agony which is attendant with the death row. Furthermore, the mandatory penalty has attracted criticism for denying the courts discretion in sentencing.
Sierra Leone is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, it has yet to sign the second optional protocol on the abolition of the death penalty. The country is now on course to join the growing list of African countries which are abolishing the capital punishment.
The bill now awaits presidential assent from President Julius Maada Bio.