Thursday, January 29, 2009

Debate rages in Algeria over proposed death penalty ban

Algerian clerics and human rights groups are locked in a vigorous debate over a death penalty ban proposed by Parliament. While the law allows it, Algeria has not executed a prisoner since 1993. Said Jameh writes for Magharebia in Algiers:

[Said Jameh] Cheikh Abderehmane Chibane of the Algerian Association of Muslim Scholars says a ban on the death penalty would be a "big mistake."

Debate is heating up in Algeria between clerics and human rights activists over a proposed ban on capital punishment in the country. Religious leaders accuse legislators of denying society a punitive measure prescribed in the Qur'an, while supporters of the ban believe the death penalty is a human rights issue and should not be approached from a religious or philosophical perspective.

The controversy began when the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) proposed the legislation, and worsened when the National Consultative Committee for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) organised a two-day meeting on January 12th-13th between clerics and human rights advocates.

Discussion from both sides has been carried widely by the Algerian press. Human rights activist Kamel Rezak Bara called for the abolition of the death penalty, citing a de facto moratorium in place in the country for many years. While judges continue to issue the death sentence – particularly in cases related to terrorism – Algeria has not executed a prisoner since 1993.

Bara called on judges to suspend their use of the death sentence, resorting instead to life in prison for existing capital crimes.

Algeria was the only Arab nation to vote in favour of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 62/149 of 2007, which called for a moratorium on executions. In the Maghreb, Libya and Mauritania opposed the initiative and Morocco abstained from the vote, while Tunisia was absent.

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