Govt urged  to abolish death penalty

Government has been called upon to abolish the dreaded death penalty in an effort to preserve the right to life.

The call was made during the commemorations to mark the World Day against Death Penalty which is observed annually on 10 October.

Addressing delegates who attended the commemorations, co-organized by Amnesty International Zimbabwe, a human rights Lobby organization and Theatre in the Park , Switzerland Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Her Excellence Ruth Huber challenged the government of Zimbabwe to do away with the dreaded sentence which is seen as a violation of the United Nations (UN) Charter on the right to life.

“As the international community is moving swiftly in abolishing the death penalty, I call upon the government of Zimbabwe to follow suit and do away with capital punishment which goes against humanity and international law.

“The UN convention against torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Zimbabwe pledged to join, is increasingly interpreted as outlawing the death penalty, as lengthy prison stays awaiting execution amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and as it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a method of execution could be defined as humane,” Ambassador Huber said.

She added, “ The general move towards the abolishment of the death penalty is also reflected in a growing body of international law and standards that either severely restrict the death penalty or ban its use, reflecting perhaps the most central tenet enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person,”

The Swiss diplomat however revealed some worrying figures of the nobler of cases where death penalty was applied in 2015.

“At least 1,998 people were sentenced to death in 2015; while 20,292 were on death row by the end of the same year. A total of  1,634 people were executed. Actually 2015 saw a dramatic rise in the number of people executed showing an over 50% increase from 2014.

“Nearly 90% of the executions took place in just three countries which are Iran, Pakistan and  Saudi Arabia,” Ambassador Huber said while adding that overally, the trend is clear and the drop in the number of countries practicing death penalty is encouraging.

She also said many people are wrongfully executed due to flawed judicial systems hence the need to put an end to the practice.

Ambassador Huber said “no judicial system is perfect, wrongful and discriminatory convictions are bound to occur. For persons sentenced to death, error is literally fatal, as the punishment is irreversible,”

Zimbabwe has however, not executed anyone since 2005 despite having 117 convicted inmates on the death row. This has been largely due to the unavailability of a hangman over the past decade.

Meanwhile, , People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has joined in the calls for the  abolishment of the death penalty.

In a statement PDP, said “The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) joins the people of Zimbabwe, Africa and the international community in commemorating today’s World Day against Death Penalty.

As PDP we reiterate our position that the death penalty is totally inhumane, degrading and against international best practices.

We therefore demand the immediate abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe as it is in breach of the country’s Constitution, which guarantees and protects the right to life for every citizen,”

PDP said some of the condemned prisoners have been waiting for the hangman for between three and 21 years living under squalor conditions at Harare Central Prison or Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where they are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours every day.

“As the PDP we are fully behind the constitutional challenge that has been brought to the Constitutional Court by some prisoners who are on death row seeking review of their sentences and that they are allowed to go for resentencing.

It is within their constitutional mandate to approach the Constitutional Court as any aggrieved person has a right to approach the courts,” the party said.

However, government is making significant strides towards the elimination of the death penalty from its statutes.

Addressing delegates who attending the 9th International Meeting of the Ministers of Justice in Rome early this year , VP Mnangagwa said he was positive that Zimbabwe will soon abolish capital punishment.

He said he survived death penalty during the Rhodesian regime and knows “the tribulations faced by those on death row”.

 


Her Excellence Ruth HuberPeople's Democratic PartySwitzerland Ambassador to Zimbabwe