Longitudinal Constitutional Trends in Clemency since Sebba (1977)

The starting point for comparative legal research on executive clemency is Leslie Sebba’s 1977 journal article in Criminal Law & Criminology comparing clemency mechanisms around the world. Subsequent scholarship tends to have only considered executive clemency in comparative perspective over a limited number of jurisdictions, or in relation to death penalty cases only. However, since Sebba published his results, based on data from the mid-1970s, there have been significant political and legal changes around the world. More than 70 national constitutions have gone into force since 1970. Sebba considered the constitutional provisions of exactly 100 different jurisdictions, whereas in 2019 there are 193 UN member states. This paper dissects Sebba’s main findings and attempts to update these based on the authors’ 2019 data, consisting of an exhaustive global survey of constitutional provisions on executive clemency. The authors ask the question: are Sebba’s findings still relevant today?