This article was originally published by Jemma Slingo, 30 July 2021 in The Law Society Gazette.
Campaigners have celebrated the abolition of capital punishment in Sierra Leone, following intervention by a legal charity housed by a London law firm.
On Friday 23 July, MPs in Sierra Leone voted unanimously to repeal the death penalty and President Julius Maada Bio is expected to sign the bill into law. The decision follows pressure from the Death Penalty Project – a legal action NGO founded and supported by Simons Muirhead Burton LLP– together with Sierra Leonean charity Avocaid, and the death penalty research unit at the University of Oxford.
Saul Lehrfreund, co-executive director of the Death Penalty Project, said the charity is ‘delighted that Sierra Leone has taken this historic step to reject capital punishment and hope other governments around the world will swiftly follow suit’.
No executions had been carried out in Sierra Leone since 1998. However, judges have continued to impose the mandatory death penalty as recently as this year. The Death Penalty Project said that at least 78 people on death row, ‘all of whom will now be removed and have their death sentences quashed’.
In March of this year, The Death Penalty Project formally set out the case for abolition to President Bio, stressing how and why the death penalty should be replaced with a ‘flexible humane system of imprisonment’.
The NGO was founded by lawyers at Simons Muirhead Burton and was initially dedicated to working on death penalty cases in the Caribbean.