IBAHRI welcomes formal abolition of the death penalty in Sierra Leone

Thursday 4 November 2021

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) commends Sierra Leone for passing the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 2021, formally eradicating the death penalty in the country in law and practice.

On 15 October 2021, President Julius Maada Bio signed the bill into law, stating: ‘We today affirm our belief in the sanctity of life.’ The Parliament of Sierra Leone voted unanimously to repeal capital punishment on 23 July 2021.

IBAHRI Co-chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The death penalty will never be a proportionate punishment for any crime that is committed. It is an abhorrent practice that amplifies human rights violations as opposed to deterring crime. The growing number of States joining the abolitionist movement is a testament to this reality. We welcome Sierra Leone’s decision to formally abolish the death penalty and strongly encourage the Government to further strengthen its commitment to abolition by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’

The Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 2021 removes capital punishment for all crimes and eliminates the threat of execution for prisoners currently on death row. In addition, rather than imposing a mandatory life sentence in place of the death penalty, the Act adopts a system of judicial discretion where judges take into account mitigating circumstances during sentencing, such as when a defendant is a victim of sexual violence. The IBAHRI welcomes this case-by-case approach to sentencing and strongly encourages other retentionist countries to follow Sierra Leone’s lead.

IBAHRI Vice-Chair Mark Stephens CBE, Howard Kennedy stated: ‘The IBAHRI welcomes President Julius Maada Bio’s signing of the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 2021 into law, keeping his promise to Sierra Leoneans and the world. Although Sierra Leone has been abolitionist in practice since 1998, death sentences nearly doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year. Amidst the trend of sending more people to death row, this momentous moment shows the importance of the death penalty being eliminated in both law and practice.’

Sierra Leone is the 23rd country in Africa to abolish the death penalty and the 110th country worldwide to eliminate capital punishment.


Notes to the Editor

  1. On 15 May 2008, the IBAHRI Council adopted its Resolution on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which considers, inter alia, the clear trend towards viewing the death penalty as a breach of international human rights standards, as well as committing the IBAHRI to actively promoting the abolition of the death penalty.​​​​​​​
  2. Click here to find out more about the IBAHRI’s work on the abolition of the death penalty.
  3. Related material:
  4. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  5. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) ​​​on social media here:
  6. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
  7. Find the IBA (@IBAnews) on social media here:

For further information, please contact IBAHRI@int-bar.org

IBA website page link for this news release:

Short link: tinyurl.com/3kv9bd48
​​​​​​​Full link: www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-welcomes-formal-abolition-of-the-death-penalty-in-Sierra-Leone