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22 death row inmates get President’s mercy

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President Lazarus Chakwera has commuted 22 convicts who were on death row to life imprisonment.

According to prison documents which The Daily Times has accessed, Chakwera ordered the change of the status of the convicts as part of the 2022 independence celebrations.

Reacting to the development, Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance Executive Director, Victor Mhango, commended Chakwera for the move.

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Mhango has also reiterated his calls that the death penalty should be abolished.

“We are excited that the President decided to commute 22 people from their status of facing death, to life imprisonment. That is a plus in the fight for human rights,” Mhango said.

Chakwera is said to be the second leader after Bakili Muluzi to commute to life imprisonment death row inmates.

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“We are happy to see that the country is not sending people to graves by giving them a chance to live on. These people have been living in fear for many years not knowing what will come.

“This is going towards the abolishment of death penalty; that is why we keep on saying that as a country, we need to sober up and consider the abolishment of the death penalty,” Mhango said.

Malawi Human Rights Commission Executive Secretary Habiba Osman said Chakwera’s act is an indication that he respects human rights.

“With our democratic values and our participation in human rights establishments, the death penalty is not advisable in our country. And for the President to make that directive, it shows he is following his own promise of the rule of law and respecting human rights,” Osman said.

She reiterated that being on the death row for a long time amounts to torture.

According to Osman, since Malawi sits in the United Nations Human Rights Council, it is important that the country shows the world that it does not support the death penalty.

Several organisations including Reprieve and the Community of Sant’Egidio have been pushing for the abolition of the death penalty, saying it is inhuman and an affront to modern values.

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