Sierra Leone’s president on Friday signed a bill abolishing the death penalty, declaring the West African country had “exorcised horrors of a cruel past” after a long campaign to end capital punishment.
His move comes after lawmakers in the West African country voted to end capital punishment in July, replacing the punishment with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year jail term.
“As a nation, we have today exorcised horrors of a cruel past,” President Julius Maada Bio declared, as he praised the nation’s decision to finally end the “inhumane” practice. He cited Sierra Leone’s “belief in the sanctity of life” as the impetus for the move.
Sierra Leone, which is still recovering after decades of civil war, had frequently come under fire from rights groups for keeping capital punishment on the books.
While the government announced back in May that it would support abolishing the death penalty, and the parliament signed off on the relevant bill in July, Sierra Leone hasn’t sentenced anyone to death since 1998. The last executions involved 24 military officers who were sentenced to death for participating in an attempted coup the prior year.
Deputy Minister of Justice Umaru Napoleon Koroma told AFP that Sierra Leone’s first recorded execution dated from 1798 — around a decade after Britain founded the colony for freed slaves in 1787.