“In ten years time, I think that nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa will have abolished the death penalty” – Interview with Aurélie Plaçais

7 April 2018

As the African Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM, begins in Abidjan, Aurélie Plaçais, Director of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, a leading partner, answered our questions.

What form has your organisation’s participation taken at this Congress?

The World Coalition is a partner at the African Congress in Abidjan organised by ECPM, alongside the Fédération internationale de l’action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la peine de mort (FIACAT) and the Commission nationale des droits de l’homme de Côte d’Ivoire (CNDHCI). The role of the Coalition has essentially been to participate in deciding on the content of the programme. We have been part of the working group which came together to define the themes, various workshops, roundtables and plenary sessions which make up the Congress. We also participated in mobilising civil society and we invited a large number of our member organisations present in sub-Saharan Africa.

On the programme it says that you are organising a private meeting during the first afternoon of debates. Can you tell us more about that?

Indeed, with FIACAT we are organising a capitalisation workshop on a project we have been cooperating on for the last three years: the programme for abolition of the death penalty in Africa 2015-2018. It targets twenty countries and some forty local civil society organisations to move the abolitionist struggle in sub-Saharan Africa forward. This workshop is open to all member organisations of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the ACAT of the FIACAT network which have participated in the project. It will enable us to assess the work of the last three years and prepare the strategy for the future. This is a really important moment for us.

What was behind the choice of Côte d’Ivoire as the Congress host country?

It is very important that this Congress take place in Côte d’Ivoire, an abolitionist country, to act as an example. But this is an abolitionist country which has not yet taken all the steps towards definitive abolition as it has not yet ratified the UN treaty for abolition of the death penalty considered to act as a barrier for abolition. We therefore also hope that this Regional Congress will result in ratification of this treaty by Côte d’Ivoire, known more officially as the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

You are actually moderating a discussion on the role of international and regional protocols.

Indeed, the aim will be to inform and discuss with civil society about the importance of ratification of these protocols for abolition of the death penalty, particularly the additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which aims to be ratified by the African Union.

Among the contributors, we can count on the presence of Maya Sahli Fadel, a commissioner at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and president of the ACHPR death penalty working group. In parallel with the Congress, we have organised a meeting of this working group the day before with the three commissioners involved, four experts who advise them and the secretary of the ACHPR. This will be a very important time because they often have little opportunity to meet all together. They come from different countries and very often only the commissioners take part in the African commissions and the experts are not all invited. We are very keen to support their work and help them consider the best ways to work together.

Several African ministers will be speaking at the Congress opening ceremony. What do you expect them to announce on that occasion?

First of all, we hope that Côte d’Ivoire will announce ratification of the UN treaty and we also expect Burkina Faso possibly to announce abolition. We are also targeting the Republic of Congo, Guinea and Angola for ratification, although they will not necessarily be represented at the Congress.

Finally, what are your hopes with regard to abolition in Africa over the next 10 years?

In ten years time, I hope that nearly the whole of sub-Saharan Africa will have abolished the death penalty. There will be no more executions, or only some rare exceptions. And we hope that the African protocol will have come into force – with 15 ratifications!