By Wezzie Gausi:
Civil society organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders have opted for the abolishment of the death penalty, claiming that it contravenes provisions of the Republican Constitution.
The call was made on Tuesday when the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament carried out public inquiries to solicit views from people on the proposed abolition of the death penalty.
This follows the production of a Progress Report on the proposed abolition of the death penalty during the 2022-23 Budget Meeting of Parliament.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said the death penalty was discriminatory, as more poor people are sentenced to death than the rich.
He said the law defeats the purpose of punishment and rehabilitation for offenders.
“There are always alternative punishments like life to imprisonment that one can get if they kill someone. The death sentence is inhuman and not suitable in this modern world.
“For your own information, one day in prison is equal to a year. The prison’s conditions are too bad. So, sending people to life imprisonment is the same as giving them a death sentence,” Kaiyatsa said.
Legal Aid Bureau Director Masauko Chamkakala said the death sentence was supposed to be abolished 30 years ago.
He said his institution had represented a significant number of people that were sentenced to death.
“This nation has to decide to abolish the sentence and start working on resentencing for people on the death row.
“The courts, like any other institution, make numerous errors during criminal processes. So it will be sad to have people killed and, by the end of the day, realise that there were criminal [prosecution] mistakes made,” Chamkakala said.
Association of People with Albinism in Malawi Executive Member Wesly Malili said they were against the death penalty, as killing people that have killed people with albinism is killing the evidence.
“The only way to discover who is behind the killings of people with albinism is to let the culprits be alive. The culprits are mostly the poor and, most often, are sent by people in big positions to do the killings,” Malili said.
Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba said they had a picture of the stand of stakeholders and they would be presenting their report to Parliament after the consultations.
He said, since 1994, no State President in the country had signed that someone be put to death.
“In essence, the law has been dormant for close to 27 years which, to us, shows that it is not useful. Going by the law, what the presidents have been doing means defying court orders,” Dimba said.
Malawi has 25 people on the death row.
On April 28 2021, the Supreme Court of Appeal made a judgement that the death penalty was unconstitutional and a violation of the right to life.
The verdict called for the amendment of all statutes that prescribe the death penalty.
But, later, the judgement was retracted over a lack of proper procedures before coming up with the judgement.