Benin Signs International Treaty, Commits to Abolishing the Death Penalty
On July 5, 2012, Benin became the 75th state to accede to the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. The 1989 human rights treaty aims at the universal abolition of the death penalty. By becoming a state party, Benin pledges to immediately cease carrying out executions and to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.
Benin has not carried out any executions in almost 25 years. The two last individuals to be executed, in 1987, had been convicted of ritual murder. Despite the long-standing de facto moratorium on executions, Benin’s attitude towards the death penalty only began shifting towards abolition in recent years. As recently as 2006, Benin’s minister for justice declared that the death penalty had to be maintained to deter foreign criminals.
The turning point came in 2009-2010, when the president tabled an abolition bill before the National Assembly. Under this bill, the death penalty would have been prohibited by Benin’s constitution. While that bill did not pass, in August 2011 the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly (55 to 5) in favor of ratifying the Second Optional Protocol, and therefore in favor of abolition.
Benin is poised to join the 104 countries that have already abolished the death penalty – more than half of the world’s states. The number of countries that retain the death penalty has decreased steadily over the past two decades. Last year, 21 countries carried out executions. In 2012, so far, only 12 are known to have executed individuals.