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‘Death penalty does not deter crime’

DISCUSSION TIME—Dimba (centre) raises a point

Moses Mkandawire

Calls for Malawi to abolish the death penalty continue to grow.

On Friday, when the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament courted stakeholders on the death penalty in Mzuzu, the majority of stakeholders indicated that they were in favour of death penalty abolishment.

The meeting saw over 20 institutions submitting both oral and written submissions concerning the issue at hand, the majority of whom were of the view that the death sentence should be abolished.

Youth and Society Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka submitted that the death penalty violates the right to life.

“In many cases recorded by Amnesty International, people were executed after being convicted in grossly unfair trials, on the basis of torture-tainted evidence and with inadequate legal representation. In some countries, death sentences are imposed as the mandatory punishment for certain offences, meaning that judges are not able to consider the circumstances of the crime or of the defendant before sentencing,” he said.

Echoing the sentiments, Alexious Kamangira, who works at the University of Malawi, said research had shown that the death penalty did not deter cases of murder.

“In South Africa, for example, where the death penalty was abolished, research has shown that there was a four percent decrease in homicide cases in that country.

“In Malawi, on the other hand, between 2019 and 2021, there were 12 death sentences that were imposed by the courts and, within that period, homicide offences continued to be committed. This is proof that the death penalty does not deter homicides; it does not deter crime,” he said.

Prison Service Department, which was represented by Regional Commanding Officer Thom Mtute, said the department, which is there to house and rehabilitate inmates, has not executed any prisoner since 1992.

However, Church and Society Executive Director Moses Mkandawire said the death penalty should be maintained.

Mkandawire said they were of the view that having the death sentence in place would deter crime in the country.

Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba said they were still soliciting views from Malawians, after which they would present a report to Parliament.

“These are laws for Malawians and, as such, it is important that, before we amend them, we should be able to seek their views,” Dimba said.

At least 108 countries had completely abolished the death penalty by 2020, nine of which are African.

There are 25 people awaiting execution in Malawi.

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