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Sierra Leone formally abolishes ‘inhumane’ death penalty

On Friday October 8, a bill abolishing the death penalty, was signed by Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio.

This has made Sierra Leone the latest African state to ban capital punishment.

The move comes after lawmakers in the West African country voted to end capital punishment in July, replacing the punishment with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year jail term.

“As a nation, we have today exorcised horrors of a cruel past,” Bio said in a statement, adding that capital punishment is “inhumane”.

“We today affirm our belief in the sanctity of life,” he added.

Sierra Leone, which is still recovering after decades of civil war, had frequently come under fire from rights groups for keeping capital punishment on the books.

Deputy Minister of Justice Umaru Napoleon Koroma told AFP that Sierra Leone’s first recorded execution dated from 1798 around a decade after Britain founded the colony for freed slaves in 1787.

Ninety-four people were living under a death sentence at the end of 2020, the minister added.

No execution has taken place in the country since 1998, however, and death sentences were often commuted.

After long resisting a formal ban on capital punishment, the government announced abolition plans in May. The parliament then voted in favour in July.

Under the new law, execution will be replaced with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year jail term for crimes such as murder or mutiny.

Sierra Leone joins a growing number of African countries that have outlawed the death penalty, with Chad abolishing the punishment last year.

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