Liberia death penalty violates international law, says UN human rights body

26 August 2008 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed deep concern today at new death penalty legislation authorized by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, contravening an international treaty on civil and political rights.

The Committee – in charge of monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – observed that Liberia is party to the Second Optional Protocol to that pact aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.

“The Act signed by the President of Liberia on 22 July 2008 therefore constitutes a clear breach by Liberia of its international legal obligations under the Second Optional Protocol,” the Committee stated in a press release.

The new law in Liberia provides that “in the event death occurs during the commission of a crime of armed robbery, terrorism or hijacking, the accused … shall be sentenced to death by hanging or imprisonment for life without possible parole.”

The Committee pointed out that as a signatory to the ICCPR’s Second Optional Protocol since 2005, Liberia has committed to ensuring that, as the pact states, “no one within (its) jurisdiction (…) shall be executed.”

Further, the Protocol notes that States party to it should also “take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within (their) jurisdiction.”

The rights body “urges Liberia to revisit the Act for possible amendment as soon as possible and encourages it, in the meantime, to maintain the moratorium in place since 1979.”

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