The project


Hands off Cain, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Somali Women Agenda carry out this joint comprehensive project which overall objective is to contain the scope of the death penalty and/or securing its lawful application in accordance with international standards and States’ obligations and commitments, as well as at introducing moratoria with a view to the total abolition of the death penalty in a time of the so-called “war on terror” in Egypt, Somalia and Tunisia. Recent developments in these countries signal how many of the achievements in the legal protection of human rights of those facing capital executions may be lost in time of terrorism, resulting in an arbitrary, unlawful and discriminate use of the death penalty in breach of international standards and obligations. This Action intends to prevent, minimize or reverse this negative impact through a set of activities forging alliances with international, regional and national human rights and legal organizations building on obligations and/or commitments undertaken by the target countries before the International Community.

The method of implementation will therefore prioritise inclusiveness and interactions, based on dialogue, and trust, among all the actors involved (target groups, beneficiaries, stakeholders) and embedded in the core of non-derogable principles of human rights as codified in international law. The dialogic and pragmatic approach was also at the basis of the promotion of a moratorium on execution as a step-by-step movement towards the abolition of the death penalty: promote a compromise between retentionists and abolitionists, which may save lives. The overall method of implementation will therefore be based on a multi modular and holistic as well as comprehensive approach. This methodology will allow an analysis of the death penalty under several aspects, i.e. statistical: numbers of death sentences, executions etc.; legal: constitutional and legislative articles, international obligations; political and social: economic conditions of those facing death sentences; religious, cultural and traditional. It will naturally also consider the theme in connection to the Rule of Law.

The specific objectives of the Action are: 1) monitoring and documenting the respect for international standards on the death penalty with reference to: the right to a fair trial, ‘most serious crimes’ threshold, juvenile offenders, gender discrimination, people with disabilities, length of time spent, even in solitary confinement, on death row as well as secret detentions; 2) raising awareness of target groups (judiciary, criminal defence lawyers, policy makers, public opinion, religious leaders, clan elders and CSOs) on international standards and States obligations and commitments on the death penalty and improving their capacities in dealing with capital cases and fair and impartial trials; 3) supporting legal reforms to introduce moratoria, abolish or restrict the use of the death penalty, and improve the countries whole system of human rights protection.

The expected specific results are: a) enhanced public access to relevant information on the use of the death penalty and its pros and cons; b) increased knowledge among target groups of international standards and States commitments on capital punishment with an improved capacity to enforce them in the target countries through relevant legal and policy changes; c) increased number of death row inmates aware of the avenues through which justice can be accessed; increased number of those legally assisted; increased number of capital cases submitted to national, regional and international jurisdictions and political bodies challenging unlawful application of death penalty.

Key stakeholders are international and national actors committed to enhance human dignity and protect human rights. The commitment for the moratorium and abolition is a longstanding and continuous effort of the UN, EU and regional organizations like the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights. Other key stakeholder are: abolitionist and human rights NGOs; death row inmates; key decision makers; religious groups (for or against the death penalty); Bar Associations and Supreme Courts’ Judges; opinion makers. The African Working Group on death penalty is aware of the action that has been discussed in target countries with representatives of Governments, Parliaments, law firms and NGOs, who are expected to provide assistance for its implementation (such as cooperating in delivering questionnaires, encouraging target groups to attend trainings, etc.). The action will be implemented in 36 months