Geneva: The Human Rights Committee, the UN body in charge of monitoring compliance of States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols with their obligations under these treaties, was very concerned to learn that, on Tuesday 22 July 2008, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia signed into law legislation envisaging the death penalty for a number of crimes. The new law provides that “in the event death occurs during the commission of a crime of armed robbery, terrorism or hijacking, the accused […] shall be sentenced to death by hanging or imprisonment for life without possibility of parole”.

The Human Rights Committee recalls that Liberia has been a party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the Death Penalty since 16 September 2005 and as such, has committed to ensuring, according to Article 1 of the Second Optional Protocol, that “no one within (its) jurisdiction (…) shall be executed”. Furthermore, States parties to the Second Optional Protocol should “take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within jurisdiction”.

The Act signed by the President of Liberia on 22 July 2008 therefore constitutes a clear breach by Liberia of its international legal obligations under the Second Optional Protocol. The Committee urges Liberia to revisit the Act for possible amendment as soon as possible and encourages it, in the meantime, to maintain the moratorium in place since 1979.