EU calls for death penalty abolition in Malawi

The European Union (EU) has appealed to the Malawi Government to abolish the death penalty, describing the punishment as cruel and inhuman.

The EU, in a press statement issued on Tuesday as part of commemorating World/European Day against the Death Penalty, said capital punishment has failed to show that it is a deterrent to crime.

But Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Justice Ralph Kasambara said in an interview it is up to Malawians, through their Members of Parliament, to decide whether they want the death penalty abolished and that government would respect their wishes. He hinted that the Malawi Law Commission recently took the debate to Malawians twice, but people have opposed the abolition of the death penalty proposal.

The EU in the statement said it regards the abolition of the death sentence as essential for the protection of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.

In 2007, the EU said abolitionists celebrated when the High Court abolished the mandatory death penalty after it was deemed unconstitutional, but although not implemented, Malawi has retained the death penalty for murder, rape, treason, armed robbery and burglary with aggravated circumstances.

Reads the statement: “Following [the 2007 ruling], resentencing hearings were granted to over 180 prisoners that were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty and are still alive today.

“Resentencing hearings give prisoners the opportunities to present mitigating evidence before the court so that a judge may be persuaded to hand down a sentence other than death.”

The statement said five years after the 2007 High Court ruling, not one of the 180 prisoners has been afforded a resentencing hearing.

But Kasambara said the judgement by the High Court did not have retrospective effect, arguing the 2007 ruling had no effect on the 180 prisoners already sentenced.

The minister said in any case, courts do not act on their own and they wait to be moved, arguing further that it is not the responsibility of government to move the courts on issues such as appeal, but concerned citizens.

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