Amnesty International seeks abolition of death penalty
Amnesty International (AI) has called for the abolition of death penalty, stating that it is cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, violation of right to life and is the ultimate denial of human life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It also described punishment by death penalty as irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. During an advocacy training on the abolition of the death penalty in West Africa held in Abuja at the weekend, it clarified that in opposing the death penalty, AI in no way seeks to belittle the suffering of the families of murder victims for whom it has great sympathy, but that the finality and cruelty inherent in the death penalty render it incompatible with the norms of modern day, civilized behavior and is an inappropriate response to violent crime.
Its Country Director, Ojigho Osai, told The Guardian that the society needs to better ask the question of what gaps needs be filled in order to address the problem of crime.
“You’ll find that there has been an increase and clamour for the death penalty to be instituted and mandated in cases of extreme violence in Nigeria today. The question we are not asking ourselves is what are the factors that drive these crimes and have led to the issues?’’
Until we have addressed these issues, punishing someone by death penalty is not the answer. According to AI, information provided by the Nigerian Prisons Service revealed that 527 people were sentenced to death in 2016. These figures are the highest recorded from an African country and second highest recorded in the world.
China is the highest in the world with recorded death sentences numbered in thousands. The prison also recorded that 33 pardons were granted, 32 death row prisoners were exonerated and 1,979 people were on death row, including five foreign nationals as at 2016.
While affirming that it is the duty of a state to protect the life of all persons within its jurisdiction without exception, it urged the government to consider that execution is an act of violence, which tends to itself provoke violence.
The international advocacy agency said it opposes the death penalty in all cases regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.
Reinforcing its assertion, AI added that the state’s attempt to select the ‘worst of the worst’ crimes and offenders out of thousands of murders committed each year inevitably leads to inconsistencies and errors and inescapable flaws which are exacerbated by discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate legal representation.
It further held that to end the death penalty is to recognize that it denies the possibility of reconciliation and rehabilitation and promotes simplistic responses to complex human problems rather than pursuing explanations that could inform positive strategies.
Amnesty International added that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations’ (UN) General Assembly in December 1948 in response to the extent of state brutality and terror witnessed during World War II, recognizes each person’s right to life (Article 3) and categorically states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5).