Who deserved to be killed as South Sudan government continues to implement death penalty? Seven men including members of one family hanged amid spike in executions
South Sudan authorities executed at least seven people in February 2019 alone, three of whom were from the same family. This is as many as were executed in the whole of 2018 and represents a shocking spike in the use of the death penalty in the country, Amnesty International said today.
“This confirms our fears that South Sudan authorities have absolutely no respect for the right to life as they continue to totally disregard the fact that the world is moving away from use of the death penalty,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
In December 2018, Amnesty International raised the alarm that the eastern African country had in that year executed more people than in any other year since its independence in 2011.
The executions in 2018 followed the transfer of at least 135 death row prisoners from county and state prisons to Wau Central Prison and Juba Central Prison, which are equipped with gallows to carry out executions.
Six of this year’s victims were executed in Juba Central Prison, while at least one was executed in Wau Central Prison. All the victims were men. The country executes people by hanging.
“We are shocked and dismayed that executions have become the order of the day in South Sudan. Rather than execute people, the authorities should rehabilitate prisoners and make them well-adjusted individuals that can contribute positively to society,” said Seif Magango.
Amnesty International has established that at least three of the executions undertaken in February 2019 were shrouded in secrecy; the family of the three related men was not informed of their impending execution and only learnt of the death of their loved ones after they had been executed.
“These reports are extremely concerning, and we cannot even begin to imagine how the families must be feeling. South Sudan must immediately commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment, establish an official moratorium on executions and take steps, without delay, to abolish the death penalty” said Seif Magango.
Amnesty International established that at least four of the seven executed men had been convicted of murder. The country’s Penal Code also allows for the use of the death penalty for bearing false witness resulting in an innocent person’s execution, terrorism (or banditry, insurgency or sabotage) resulting in death, aggravated drug trafficking and treason.
Pete Ouko, former death row inmate, Kenya Sentenced to death for murder in 2001 at the age of 31, Pete Ouko, then father of two young children, has always claimed his innocence. Detained for nearly eighteen years in a cell with thirteen other prisoners, he now testifies at 11:30 p.m. out of 24 to the difficulty of surviving until his execution, under particularly complicated conditions. He was pardoned and released on October 26th 2007 and now holds a law degree from the University of London. He is involved in defending the rights of prisoners in Africa through the Youth Safety Awareness Initiative, of which he is the founder and director.
Lindy Lou Isonhood, former juror in a trial leading to an execution Lindy Lou Isonhood is an American from Mississippi who was sworn in at a trial leading to the death sentence and execution of a man twenty years ago. She has since lived with an unbearable sense of guilt, and no one in her Republican and Protestant community has understood her distress. In 2006, Lindy Lou met this convict, Bobby Wilcher. She became his friend and remained so until the day of his execution. Today, she is the heroine of Florent Vassault’s documentary Lindy Lou, juror n°2. We follow her at the beginning of a journey that will lead her to meet the other eleven jurors in this trial. Thanks to this journey, she was finally able to ask herself this fundamental question: “Are we seeking revenge or justice?
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to execute the prisoner.
The death penalty – the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice – is the most fundamental denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
By Lagu Joseph
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