Sierra Leone Abolishes Death Penalty

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 8, 2021

FREETOWN — Sierra Leone’s president signed a bill abolishing the death penalty on Friday, declaring that the West African country had “. . . exorcised horrors of a cruel past . . .” after a long campaign to do so.

After lawmakers approved the text in July, President Julius Maada Bio signed the bill during a ceremony in the capital Freetown.

The president called capital punishment “inhumane . . . We today affirm our belief in the sanctity of life,” Bio said in a statement.

According to Deputy Minister of Justice Umaru Napoleon Koroma, Sierra Leone’s first recorded execution occurred in 1798, roughly a decade after Britain established the colony for freed slaves in 1787.  At the end of 2020, 94 people were facing the death penalty, according to the minister.

After long opposing a formal ban on capital punishment, the government announced plans to abolish it in May.  In July, the parliament voted in favor.

For crimes such as murder or mutiny, the new law will replace execution with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year prison term.

Sierra Leone joins a growing number of African countries that have abolished the death penalty, with Chad, for example, doing so last year.