- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MONROVIA, Liberia | Liberia on Monday defended a controversial new law introducing the death penalty for those convicted of violent armed robbery, saying its people had become “dehumanized” after a brutal civil war.

Deputy Minister of Information Gabriel Williams said that the law, which took effect last week, was a response to public outcry over the growing crime rate.

“This is what Liberian people want. You can do your own survey; you will realize that this is the will of the majority,” Mr. Williams said.

The law provides the death penalty for people convicted of armed robbery, terrorism or hijacking if their crimes resulted in fatalities.

Amnesty International and several local and international human rights groups had slammed the move, saying it went against an international agreement aimed at abolishing capital punishment that Liberia signed in 2005.

Liberia is still recovering from 14 years of back-to-back civil war that ended in 2003 and left the country in ruins. Recently, the capital Monrovia has suffered a wave of violent armed robberies.

“Armed robbery has been a major problem in our country. People are being terrorized,” Mr. Williams said.

“Can you imagine bandits breaking into your home terrorizing your family, raping your girl children, your wife, or killing somebody? Don’t you think it is right to deal with such situation in this manner especially in a country like ours where people are coming out of war during which they were dehumanized?”

Amnesty International on Friday called on Liberia to repeal the legislation saying that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.

Seven of Africa’s 53 countries are known to have carried out executions last year.

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