19th October 2020
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Amnesty welcomes commutation of Magai’s death sentence

Author: Garang Abraham Malaak | Published: Thursday, July 30, 2020

Magai Matiop Ngong was sentenced to death, while underage, in November 2017 following the death of his cousin. PHOTO//Amnesty International

Amnesty International has welcomed the decision of South Sudan’s Court of Appeal to cancel the death sentence passed on a teenager in 2017.

The rights group believed Magai Matiop Ngong was on a death row in contraventions with South Sudan and international laws that prohibit a child from being sentenced to death.

On 14 July, the Court of Appeal reportedly repealed the death sentence imposed on Magai, noting that he was a child at the time of the crime.

The court sent the case back to the High Court to rule on an appropriate sentence and his removal from death row on 29 July.

Who is Magai, and how did he end up on a death row?

With no legal representation during his trial, Magai Matiop was convicted for killing his cousin – which he insists was an accident.

According to Amnesty International, Magai took his father’s gun and fired it at the ground to scare the boy -as a way of stopping his cousin from fighting with another boy in the neighborhood.

But a bullet reportedly rebounded and hit his cousin, who later died in the hospital.

Magai, who is said to be roughly 18 years old now, was sentenced to death in November 2017.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International initiated an online campaign aimed at demanding Magai’s sentence be cancelled.

It called on President Salva Kiir to intervene and commute the death sentence on the teenager.

The pressure group said at least two people, who were children at the time of the crime, have been executed in South Sudan since May 2018.

It notes that South Sudan is one of four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that carried out executions in 2018 and 2019.

Eye Radio could not independently verify the claims.

But the rights group said its research shows that the death penalty is extremely used against poor and disadvantaged people in South Sudan.

In advocating for the rights of Magai, Amnesty International mobilized more than 765,000 people around the world calling on President Salva Kiir to commute the death sentence, and express their solidarity with Magai.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa welcomed the Court of Appeal’s decision to quash the death sentence, noting that Magai is “one of the lucky ones.”

“The South Sudanese government must fully comply with national and international laws which prohibit the use of the death penalty against anyone below 18 years of age at the time the crime was committed,” he said. “The authorities must abolish this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Amnesty International stressed that it is opposed to the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

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