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Amnesty International, Nigerian organisations reject death penalty for terrorists

Amnesty International, Nigerian organisations reject death penalty for terrorists

Amnesty International, as well as Nigerian civil society organisations, has kicked against the adoption of the death penalty for convicted terrorists by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly adopted the death penalty after a joint committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate recently recommended the death penalty for acts of terrorism.

The amended bill has been sent to the president Goodluck Jonathan for accent.

Victor Lar (PDP-Plateau), a member of the joint committee, told PREMIUM TIMES that “the life imprisonment sentence as opposed to the death penalty, particularly, for perpetrators of terrorist acts that results in the death of citizens is not decisive enough.”

However, in an email to PREMIUM TIMES, Jan Erik Wetzel, Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Adviser, said the argument for the death penalty was not convincing.

Mr Wetzel said though Amnesty International recognises the seriousness of act of violence such as terrorism, and is compassionate to the victims of such violent acts, “there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty prevents crime more effectively than other punishments.”

“The death penalty is not a solution, but an attempt to provide a quick fix to public security concern,” he said.

“Officials responsible for fighting terrorism and political crimes have repeatedly pointed out that executions are as likely to increase such acts as they are to stop them. Executions can create martyrs whose memory becomes a rallying point for their organizations.

“For men and women prepared to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs — for example suicide bombers — the prospect of execution is unlikely to deter and may even act as an incentive. State use of the death penalty has also been used by armed opposition groups as a justification for reprisals, thereby continuing the cycle of violence,” he added.

Amnesty International is not alone in the condemnation of the death penalty; other Nigerian groups also expressed similar views. Weak security operation and judicial process

The Chairman of the Human Environment and Development Agenda, (HEDA) Olarenwaju Suraju, said in a country like Nigeria where the judicial system and security operations are easily open to extraneous influences, the innocents can be unjustly arrested and executed for trumped-up terrorism charges.

“In sane environments where they have very functional judicial system and effective administration of justice, the death penalty is not considered as an option much less a country like Nigeria where we have questionable judicial system and administration of justice,” Mr. Suraju said

Similarly, the founder of Integrity Organisation Nigeria, Soji Apampa, said prescribing the death penalty for convicted terrorists will be a “grave miscarriage of justice without fixing the judicial system first.”

“I know we have a grave security situation, the first thing we should do is fix the ability of our security operations to do their work before prescribing death penalty for anybody. The governance of the country is broken including security operatives.

“There are more fundamental issues at stake than killing people,” he said.

Already, the death penalty exists in Nigerian law for crimes such as murder. If the bill is approved into law, then terrorism, which is on the rise in the country, will also receive a capital punishment.

The decision to approve the harmonised anti-terrorism bill into law is now with President Goodluck Jonathan. 

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