A fellow at Reprieve, who is also a volunteer at Community of Sant’ Egidio, Alexious Kamangila, has expressed discontent over the continued sustainability of the death sentence in the country’s Penal Code.
Both organisations are among those opposing the death sentence and have been petitioning governments to abolish the penalty and establish moratoriums on executions “so that serene reflection can take place on the issue of capital punishment”.
Speaking on the sidelines of a panel discussion conducted online on Friday, during the World Day against the Death Penalty, Kamangila said now is the time for Malawi to learn from other countries that abolished the penalty.
In the Southern African region, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola, Madagascar and Mauritius are among those that have done away with the death penalty.
Kamangila said Malawi needs to have a critical reflection on the penalty as sometimes due to challenges in the criminal justice system, not all those convicted of various crimes might have indeed committed them.
“The majority of death sentences in Malawi are unsafe, marred by failure to find lawyers or challenges in quality of the lawyers and lack of resources to ensure a fair trial,” Kamangila said.
He added that the panel discussion revealed discrimination in trials that may lead to the death sentence where the suspect’s economic status cannot allow them to afford their own legal representation.
Director of Legal Aid Bureau Masauko Chankakala also highlighted the importance of suspects having independent legal representation in each case.
“Legal representation is required from the point of arrest to interrogation, investigation and trial which should ordinarily include appeal,” Chankakala, who was among the panellists, said.
Another panellist, High Court Judge Redson Kapindu, also stressed the need for the accused to have their own independent legal representation for them to fight their suspected crimes which may lead to the death penalty upon conviction.
Meanwhile, European Union delegation Deputy Ambassador, Aurelie Valtat, has commended Reprieve for pushing for the abolition of capital punishment.
Valtat recommended that the accused persons— whose crimes attract the death penalty—must have a choice in as far as legal representation is concerned.
“While the quality of counsel can be a shared challenge across the world, access to counsel should be guaranteed always,” she said.
While Malawi still has capital punishment in the Penal Code and some convicts have been condemned to be executed, no President has ever sanctioned the killing since the inception of democracy.
Currently, there are 24 inmates on the death row.