Sierra Leone’s parliament abolishes death penalty

In a historic vote by the parliament in Sierra Leone, lawmakers abolished the death penalty. The country is now the 23rd country in Africa to abolish the death penalty.

“We know the emotions raised by this, but as a progressive nation we need to be on par or in conformity with other states… as a progressive nation we have to remove this law,” said Nyuma.

There were concerns that the abolition will lead to a crime wave with criminals who have already expressed they would kill then go to jail, serve the sentence and come out again.

Addressing these concerns, parliamentarians stated that the death penalty would be replaced with a life sentence. Judges can now pronounce an obligatory minimum of 30 years with the option of the accused doing more time, depending on the severity of the crime.

Major Palo Conteh is former defence and internal affairs minister and was recently charged with treason, a crime that normally carries a death penalty sentence on conviction. He had been discovered with a pistol on his way to meet President Julius Mada Bio at State House.

Convicted for the possession of a weapon that was not properly registered, Conteh served a two-year sentence while his appeal was being heard. President Bio finally granted him clemency and freed him.

“Personally I think we should retain the death penalty for certain offences,” said Conteh.

“Of course, [from] my experience with treason, I would say no, because it can be used as a political tool. However blatant [crimes], like people who kill young children – I think offences like those should carry the death penalty,” he added.

Read more on RFI.