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This week, the Death Penalty Worldwide continues its examination of the contradictory features of abolitionist de facto states. Cameroon, our most recently updated entry, has not carried out any excutions since 1997. However, there are currently at least 77 prisoners on death row, and Cameroonian courts continue to hand down death sentences – the last death sentence was issued at least as recently as 2010.

While the death penalty remains a feature of the criminal justice system, actual executions have been avoided through the use of executive clemency. In 2009, during its last Universal Periodic Review – a U.N. mechanism under which the U.N. Human Rights Council examines the human rights record of every state every four years – the government reported that the president’s policy was to “routinely” grant mercy petitions, which under Cameroonian law are automatically filed once a death sentence becomes final. Since 2004, the president has also issued four blanket amnesty decrees commuting death sentences to life imprisonment. However, certain types of offenders, for instance repeat offenders, or those convicted of capital murder or aggravated theft, have been excluded from these executive clemency grants.

Despite this unique use of the clemency power, there appears to be no immediate prospect of complete abolition in Cameroon. Government representatives made that position clear before the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009, when they rejected the recommendation that Cameroon abolish the death penalty, “because of its dissuasive effect and public support for its retention.”

Our updated research on the death penalty in Cameroon is available here.