A cross-party group of 40 MEPs called on Thursday on the European Commission to ban biometric identification technology in public spaces. A leak of the forthcoming EU artificial intelligence (AI) regulation states systems used for “indiscriminate surveillance” would be prohibited in the EU. However, this would not apply to public authorities when justified “in order to safeguard public security”. The legislative proposal is expected to be published next week.
Sierra Leone has become the latest African state to abolish the death penalty after MPs voted unanimously to abandon the punishment.
On Friday the west African state became the 23rd country on the continent to end capital punishment, which is largely a legacy of colonial legal codes. In April, Malawi ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, while Chad abolished it in 2020. In 2019, the African human rights court ruled that mandatory imposition of the death penalty by Tanzania was “patently unfair”.
Of those countries that retain the death penalty on their statute books, 17 are abolitionist in practice, according to Amnesty International.
A de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty has existed in Sierra Leone since 1998, after the country controversially executed 24 soldiers for their alleged involvement in a coup attempt the year before.
Under Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution, the death penalty could be prescribed for murder, aggravated robbery, mutiny and treason.
Last year, Sierra Leone handed down 39 death sentences, compared with 21 in 2019, according to Amnesty, and 94 people were on death row in the country at the end of last year.
Rhiannon Davis, director of the women’s rights group AdvocAid, said: “It’s a huge step forward for this fundamental human right in Sierra Leone.
“This government, and previous governments, haven’t chosen to [put convicts to death since 1998], but the next government might have taken a different view,” she said.
“They [prisoners] spend their life on death row, which in effect is a form of torture as you have been given a death sentence that will not be carried out because of the moratorium, but you constantly have this threat over you as there’s nothing in law to stop that sentence being carried out.”
Davis said the abolition would be particularly beneficial to women and girls accused of murdering an abuser.
“Previously, the death penalty was mandatory in Sierra Leone, meaning a judge could not take into account any mitigating circumstances, such as gender-based violence,” she said.
Umaru Napoleon Koroma, deputy minister of justice, who has been involved in the abolition efforts, said sentencing people on death row to “life imprisonment with the possibility of them reforming is the way to go”.
Across sub-Saharan Africa last year Amnesty researchers recorded a 36% drop in executions compared with 2019 – from 25 to 16. Executions were carried out in Botswana, Somalia and South Sudan.
The European Commission announced it is on track to share some 200 million doses of vaccines against Covid-19 before the end of the year. It says the vaccines will go to low and middle-income countries. “We will be sharing more than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with low and middle-income countries by the end of this year,” said European commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
The subtropical island arc is situated northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. The region is located in the Ring of Fire, a seismically active zone that is regularly shaken by powerful earthquakes.
A 6.0-magnitude earthquake has hit the Kermadec Islands region in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51:28.4 UTC, EMSC reported on Saturday.
The powerful seismic activity, reported 1,002 km south of Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, was registered at a depth of two kilometres.
The islands are part of New Zealand that is located in a seismically active zone known as the Ring of Fire and regularly suffers from powerful earthquakes. On 22 February 2011, the 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s city of Christchurch, leaving 185 people dead and more than 1,500 injured.