Friday 8 August 2008

Liberian Parliament Attempts to Reinstate Capital Punishment

Liberia has enacted legislation introducing the death penalty for certain crimes. Liberia abolished the death penalty in 2004, and confirmed this by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 16 September 2005. Article 1(2) of the Protocol says ‘Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.’ Clearly, this latest development in Liberia is a violation of the obligations that Liberia assumed when it acceded to the Second Optional Protocol. In any event, as a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Liberia cannot reintroduce capital punishment as this would violate its obligation under article 6(1) of the Covenant to protect against the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (as interpreted by the Human Rights Committee in Judge v. Canada).
The President of Liberia may veto the legislation, in accordance with the country’s constitution:
This is the first time any State party to the Second Optional Protocol has attempted to reinstate capital punishment. It is a very serious development that should be immediately condemned by authoritative bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the relevant special rapporteurs. President Sirleaf must be urged to respect her country’s international obligations.

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