Initiating constructive debate: a critical reflection on the death penalty in Africa
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For the first time in the agenda of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, during the 36th Ordinary Session (2004), the death penalty was one of the issues discussed. Commissioner Chirwa initiated debate on the death penalty in Africa, urging the commission to take a clear position on the subject. She recommended that in view of the international and human rights developments and trends, it is necessary for the continent to initiate constructive debate on the question of the death penalty in Africa. It is against this background that this article is written, with the aim of showing that there is a need for constructive debate on the death penalty in Africa. Considering that the African Commission is encouraging such a debate, the article begins with an examination of its stance on the subject. This is followed by a brief evaluation of the use of the death penalty in Africa, highlighting some areas of concern. The death penalty in Africa is then considered from a human rights perspective, focusing mainly on the possibility of relying on constitutional provisions on the right to life and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to challenge the death penalty.