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Africa: Death Penalty Developments

(Nov. 2, 2007) The non-governmental human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) reported in October 2007 on various developments concerning capital punishment in five African countries. Most notably, Rwanda abolished the death penalty on July 27, 2007, resulting in the commutation of the sentences of about 600 death row prisoners to life imprisonment. According to AI, this makes Rwanda "the 14th African country to end capital punishment for all crimes; 18 others are abolitionist in practice." (AFRICA ROUND-UP, 37:9 THE WIRE (Oct. 2007), AI Index: NWS 21/009/2007, available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNWS210092007&lang=e.)

Nigerian authorities announced in May 2007 that all prisoners over 70 years of age and those over 60 who had spent more than ten years on death row would be granted amnesties, but no death row prisoners (some of whom had been there for 20 or more years) had been released by July. The Guinean Minister of Justice and Human Rights indicated to AI in June 2007 that the Government of Guinea is opposed to the death penalty and would carry out no executions. According to AI, the re-election to the Mali Parliament, in July 2007, of Kassoum Tapo, the initiator of a January 2007 draft bill to abolish the death penalty in that country, "raised hopes that legislation to abolish the death penalty would be put before Parliament soon" (see below for information on the recent action in Mali). Finally, in Mauritania, the establishment of an anti-death penalty association in that country, the first of its kind, was conjointly announced in August 2007 by several human rights organizations. (Id.) It may also be noted that in September 2007 Gabon's Council of Ministers voted to abolish the death penalty (see 10 W.L.B. 2007).