The president of Sierra Leone officially abolished the country’s death penalty on Friday, three months after its parliament backed ending the ‘cruel’ and ‘inhumane’ practice of capital punishment.

In place of the death penalty, the West African nation will punish serious offenders by sentencing them to life in prison, with a minimum term of 30 years behind bars.

“As a nation, we have today exorcised horrors of a cruel past,” President Julius Maada Bio declared, as he praised the nation’s decision to finally end the “inhumane” practice. He cited Sierra Leone’s “belief in the sanctity of life” as the impetus for the move.

While the government announced back in May that it would support abolishing the death penalty, and the parliament signed off on the relevant bill in July, Sierra Leone hasn’t sentenced anyone to death since 1998. The last executions involved 24 military officers who were sentenced to death for participating in an attempted coup the prior year.

When a majority of parliamentarians backed abolishing the death penalty, human rights group Amnesty International called it “a major victory for all those who tirelessly campaigned to consign this cruel punishment to history,” adding that it will strengthen “the protection of the right to life.”

Sierra Leone is the 23rd African nation and the 110th country globally to end the death penalty. The last country on the continent to stop the practice of capital punishment was Chad in 2020, which had, up to that point, kept the sentence on the statute books for acts of terrorism.

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