death penalty

Newly ‘perfected’ death penalty decision shows all is far from perfect on Malawi’s apex court

It was an amazing glitch: though a majority of Malawi’s highest court was seen to have declared the death penalty unconstitutional in a decision delivered late April, the court now says this isn’t so. According to a ‘perfected’ version of the judgment, published this week, the lead writer of the April decision was expressing his own views on the death penalty, not those of his colleagues.

Death penalty case re-visited by Kenya supreme court

Kenya’s supreme court has given special directions in relation to follow-up of its landmark 2017 decision in relation to the mandatory death penalty. At a special sitting of the court, its members questioned a number of court decisions delivered in the wake of the watershed case of Francis Muruatetu and said that the confusion that had arisen needed to be resolved.

Read court’s special directions

 

The case of Francis Muruatetu and another convict made world headlines in December 2017 when Kenya’s highest court declared that the mandatory death penalty for murder, imposed in the case of the two men, was unconstitutional.

Time to end mandatory death penalty in Zambia?

The courts of Zambia continue to pass and confirm the death penalty in alarming numbers, following a 2016 constitutional review in which the majority of voters expressed support for the existing laws on hanging. Presidents have periodically commuted large batches of death row prisoners. The most recent mass commuting of death penalty sentences occurred earlier this year, when President Edgar Lungu moved 225 men and 21 women off death row, ostensibly to reduce ‘overcrowding’ and create better conditions to protect against Covid-19.

Never will I forget the first time I sat in court, watching and listening as a judge passed the death sentence on a convicted person. In the years after that, before South Africa’s new apex court found the death penalty unconstitutional, I witnessed that scene on a number of other occasions, but each time it was a shock, a jolt to the soul: how could it be that this person, whom everyone in court had somehow got to know through the hours or days of the trial, who was alive and well, would be put to death by hanging on the orders of this judge?

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