President of Switzerland, Didier Burhalter, together with 11 Foreign Ministers from around has called on Nigeria and other countries to remove death penalty from their statute books.
In a statement by the Swiss Embassy in Abuja yesterday, 12 foreign ministers who issued the joint declaration were listed as follows: Héctor Marcos Timerman (Argentina), Julie Bishop (Australia), Nassirou Bako Arifari (Benin), Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé (Burkina Faso), Duly Brutus (Haiti), José Antonio Meade Kuribreña (Mexico), Luvsanvandan Bold (Mongolia), Børge Brende (Norway), Albert F. del Rosario (Philippines), Didier Burkhalter (Switzerland), Mevlüt Çavuolu (Turkey), Philip Hammond (United Kingdom).
Forty years ago, only 14 countries had fully abolished capital punishment. That number now stands at about 100 and is set to increase further. There are now nearly 160 death penalty-free countries, if the number of countries that haven’t carried out executions for at least 10 years is added.
French Human rights group, Lawyers Without Borders also used the occasion of the world day against death penalty, to re-affirm its commitment towards ensuring that international human rights standards were firmly adhered to in the course of dispensing justice in Nigeria.
According to the group, it was particularly concerned about the welfare of persons with mental health problems who were at risk of a death sentence or execution.
Lawyers Without Borders said that many detainees on death row developed mental problems under the weight of the loopholes in the justice system. With Nigeria being a signatory to a number of international instruments including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 12) which establishes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” most of the inmates on death row in Nigeria’s prison are not supposed to die.
“It is a known fact that the unsanitary and sometimes overcrowded state of Nigerian prisons plays a role in the diminishing mental health of some detainees on death row. In addition, the expectation of the hangman on a daily basis has its impact on the detainees”.
“The period between sentencing and the actual execution is recorded to be extremely lengthy with many inmates spending up to 15 years on death row.
“These factors combined have more often than not contributed to what is being recognised in legal and academic circles as death row phenomena.
“In essence, the person who may have committed a crime and was tried and sentenced to death may not be the same person who will be executed 15 years later due to mental deterioration,” the group said.