Burkina Faso must seize the opportunity to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International said on the eve of parliamentary sessions which will culminate in an historic vote.
Tomorrow the national transitional parliament will start a series of discussions with organisations and interested parties regarding the abolition of the death penalty before putting a bill to the vote on 6 September. The government has already approved the text of the bill which has been sent back to the transitional parliament.
“This is a critical moment for Burkina Faso to put itself on the right side of history by acknowledging the inviolable nature of the right to life,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West Africa director.
“The eyes of the world will be on the country’s parliamentarians to see whether they will join the steady global movement away from the use of the death penalty and abolish this cruel punishment once and for all.”
The last known execution was carried out in Burkina Faso in 1988. If the law is adopted, Burkina Faso will join the 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which have abolished the death penalty.
Progress in the region has been good. Over the course of the last twenty years, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Togo in West Africa, alongside Burundi, Gabon, Mauritius and Rwanda, have all abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Earlier in the year Madagascar became the latest country in Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.
The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There is no convincing evidence to support the idea that the death penalty works as a deterrent to crime, or that it is more effective than other forms of punishment. This has been confirmed in many United Nations studies across different countries and regions.
The parliamentary discussions will start tomorrow with the hearing of human rights organisations that have been campaigning against the death penalty in Burkina Faso. This will be followed on 4 September by the Report hearing. The plenary session for the parliament’s vote will take place on 6 September.
The first article of the draft bill confirms that the country is an abolitionist in practice, the second introduces a reference to life sentence in respect of all texts applicable before the entry into force of the law. The third article states that death sentences already imposed are commuted into life imprisonment. The fourth article indicates that the law shall be enforced as a law of the State.
Burkina Faso’s laws currently provide for the use of the death penalty in the penal code, the military code of justice and article 4 of the railways police law.