Benin has taken an important step towards abolishing the death penalty after the country’s National Assembly yesterday voted in favour of ratifying an international treaty banning capital punishment.
Benin would be the 74th state worldwide to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for the death penalty to be abolished.
“The Beninese authorities should be commended for this important step that would bring their criminal justice system in line with the global trend to outlaw this cruel punishment,” said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.
“Benin’s President Boni Yayi must act swiftly to finalize Benin’s ratification of the Optional Protocol and Benin’s example must be followed by neighbouring West African countries who have yet to abolish the death penalty,” said Véronique Aubert.
While Benin’s penal code has allowed for the death penalty to be handed down for various offences, Beninese authorities have not executed anyone for more than two decades.
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the last executions in Benin took place in September 1987, when two people were shot after receiving death sentences for ritual murder. The previous year, six people had been executed by shooting after being convicted of armed robbery and murder. The last death sentence was handed down in 2010 to a woman sentenced in absentia for murder.
At least 14 people are currently on death row in Benin’s prisons.
Benin joins other countries in moving towards the abolition of the death penalty in Africa. To date, 16 African countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, including three – Burundi, Togo and Gabon – in the last two years.
Despite these important advances, work remains to be done to abolish the death penalty worldwide.
In 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed new death sentences. Among the methods of execution used were beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment, and should never be used by any state under any circumstances,” said Véronique Aubert.
“Those countries that still execute offenders are increasingly isolated as they battle against the changing tide of global public opinion and legal practice on the death penalty.”