state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 2 December 1990
legal system: based on French civil law and customary law
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale)
judicial system: Constitutional Court; Supreme Court; High Court of Justice
religion: Christian 42.8%, Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, other 15.5%
death row: 14 (up tp 16 April 2017, according to Amnesty International)
year of last executions: 23-9-1987
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (aiming to the abolition of the death penalty)
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
On 5 July 2012, with the deposit of its instrument of accession, Benin has become part of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Although the death penalty remains within its jurisdiction until the criminal laws providing for it are totally repealed, the accession without reservations to the Second Protocol, which entered into full force and effect on 5 October 2012, makes Benin a country totally abolitionist. In fact, under Article 1, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed,” and “Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”
“The Abolitionist of the Year 2014” Award, which is promoted by Hands off Cain to recognize the person, who, above all others, has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment in the struggle for a moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty, is conferred this year upon Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin.
Starting with his election to the helm of Benin in 2006, Boni Yayi put the abolition of the death penalty among the fore of important reforms to be carried in the Country. “It is necessary to find ways to reconcile the evolution of law towards a greater humanity with the application of penalties that help to correct and re-orient those who are lost or relegated to the margins of society,” President Yayi wrote in his Preface to Hands off Cain’s 2014 Report.
In February 2009, a year after its creation by presidential decree in February 2008, the ad hoc Commission for Revision of the Constitution rephrased Article 15 of the Basic Law of Benin in these terms: “Every individual has the right to life, liberty, security and the integrity of their person. (…) None can be sentenced to death.”
On 18 August 2011, the Country’s National Assembly had voted in favour of ratifying the Second Optional Protocol by an overwhelming majority: 54 votes in favour, five against and six abstentions.
On 17 December 2012, the National Assembly voted for the repeal of death penalty provisions contained in two articles of the new Criminal Procedure Code – adopted in March 2012 –, which were declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court on 4 August. According to the Court, after the accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Benin is committed to respecting the legal instrument aimed at abolishing the death penalty. All remaining death penalty provisions in national legislation was on the agenda parliament for their repeal in 2013.
In early July 2014, Benin hosted a pan-African conference to raise awareness of governments of the continent for voting in favour of the new pro-moratorium Resolution on the agenda of the UN General Assembly in December 2014, and for the adoption of an additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.
The last reported executions were carried out on 23 September 1987, when two persons were shot after receiving death sentences for ritual murder.
The last death sentence was handed down in 2010 to a woman sentenced in absentia for murder.
On 19 December 2016, as in 2014 and 2012, Benin co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. It was absent in 2010.