Malawi: activists commemorate Day against the death penalty – Tonse urged to abolish death penalty

Youth and Society (YAS) – one of the local human rights watchdogs – urged the Tonse Alliance-led government to seriously consider repealing all laws giving effect to the death penalty under the Second Optional Protocol the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. United Nations (UN) rights.

YAS made the call as local human rights activists join with the rest of the world in commemorating a global day of activism against the death penalty, which falls on October 10 each year.

The organization’s executive director Charles Kajoloweka in a statement released on Sunday morning said YAS opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life and

Kajoloweka said, while Malawi has not ratified the second optional protocol, practice in Malawi reflects a commitment to abolish the death penalty.

“With this in mind, we recognize that since 1994 Malawi has had a de facto moratorium on the execution of the death penalty. Since the establishment of democracy, no person sentenced to death has been executed.

Malawi has made its commitment to this moratorium clear in its interactions with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and United Nations human rights bodies, for example in its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review. (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Malawi has signaled its intention to maintain the moratorium, ”the statement read in part.

During its second cycle of the UPR in 2015, Malawi accepted three crucial recommendations on the death penalty: (1) maintain the moratorium on the death penalty; (2) to continue its efforts to review the cases of those sentenced to death, commute all death sentences and put in place a moratorium with a view to the future abolition of the death penalty; and (3) to review and provide appropriate re-sentencing decisions for those convicted under the now abolished mandatory death penalty.

Kajoloweka recalls that in December 2016, Malawi voted in favor of the United Nations General Assembly resolution “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”.

He said it was the first time that Malawi voted in favor of this resolution. The resolution indicates that the signatory countries are “convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and to the strengthening and progressive development of human rights”.

In addition, the resolution calls on all states “to ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to request pardon or commutation”.

Kajoloweka said that by voting in favor of this resolution, Malawi had made clear its commitment to refrain from carrying out executions.

“Remarkably, with respect to the Kafantayeni judgment, Malawi has made tremendous progress in re-sentencing prisoners on death row.

“Despite the progressive steps Malawi has taken towards abolishing the death penalty, it is of great concern that it still maintains the death penalty in its supreme law and statutes,” he said.

Kajoloweka said YAS feels it is not safe for the country to continue to rely on a moratorium and the goodwill of members of the president’s office on the death penalty as it currently does.

He says it is worrying that Malawian courts continue to hand down death sentences in some cases of offenses carrying the death penalty.

He cited the death sentences of three people, namely Douglas Mwale, Sophie Jere and Fontino Folosani, who were convicted of murder in Mchinji.

Kajoloweka further asserts that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long prison terms, as the evidence shows that countries that have death penalty laws do not do not have lower murder rates than countries without such laws.

To reduce murder rates, advises the executive director of the YAS, the government must invest heavily in security to protect citizens from criminals, not in executing people.

“Death penalty laws falsely convince the public that the government has taken effective action to combat crime. In reality, these laws do nothing to protect citizens or our communities from the acts of dangerous criminals.

“In light of the above, we commend the government of Malawi for being progressive in practice and commitments and call for the following actions: Abolish the death penalty by amending article 16 of the Constitution and repealing all laws giving effect to the death penalty in Malawi; ratify the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and commute the sentences of those sentenced to death “, concludes Kajoloweka.

Recently, UN human rights spokesperson Marta Hurtado expressed concern over the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the death penalty, overturning the judge’s verdict. Dunstan Mwaungulu had rendered earlier on the matter.

In his determination, Mwaungulu outlawed the death penalty.

Hurtado said the ruling perfected by Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal raised serious human rights concerns in Malawi.

She argued that the death penalty is, by its nature, incompatible with Malawi’s duty to protect the fundamental right to life, and there is no evidence globally that it has a deterrent effect. on serious crimes.

“The risk of an innocent person being sentenced to death, a concern in all states where the criminal sanction is still in effect, is heightened in Malawi, where the law does not criminalize confessions extracted under duress, including by torture. and abuse. nor prevent their admission as evidence in court, ”part of the statement read.

Hurtado added that Malawi has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1994 and that even if the moratorium is now maintained, the renewed uncertainty faced by those on death row could result in intense suffering for themselves and their families. families.

She said, in particular, that those condemned to death who believed – following the judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal last April – that they were immune from the risk of execution, found themselves there to new submitted.

“We welcome the statement by the President of Malawi on May 3, 2021, declaring that the earlier decision abolishing the death penalty would be respected. The recent clarification of the Court does not prevent the Government and Parliament of Malawi from taking steps to formally abolish the death penalty. death penalty in the country through legislation, and we encourage the taking of these measures to definitively resolve this important issue for the future of the country and the fundamental rights of its people, ”she said.

Hurtado stressed that by doing so, Malawi would extend its protection of the right to life, guaranteed by international law, and join the growing trend of abolition around the world, including in Africa, where 80% of states have now abolished the death penalty. penalty in law or in practice.

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