Government defends death penalty

Malawi has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland that it has no intention to abolish the death penalty.

The Malawi Government delegation was this week responding to the committee’s question on whether the country had plans to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCR by amending the Penal Code in order to formally abolish the death penalty.

Banda (2nd from L ) and her team after the presenting the position
Banda (2nd from L ) and her team after the presenting the position

Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary and Solicitor General Janet Banda formally presented the responses to the committee on Wednesday.

She said Malawi courts continue to impose the death penalty on murder convicts although none has been executed since the country embraced multi-party democracy in June 1993.

Reads the response in part: “There are no immediate plans of abolishing the death penalty. Malawian courts still impose death penalties on persons convicted of murder.

“Since the dawn of multiparty system of government, no person sentenced to death has been officially executed. As at early June 2014, there are 29 people on death row at Zomba Central Prison.”

On prison conditions, the committee wanted to know how many inmates have died while in jail.

In its response with statistics from 2005, government said 295 died in that year, 343 in 2006, 171 the following year, 180 in 2008, 222 in 2009, 109 in 2010 while 131 were recorded in 2011 followed by 95 deaths in 2012 and finally 49 prisoners died in 2013 with HIV and Aids, tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and malnutrition as reported causes.

On cases of extrajudicial killings, the team said the police instituted an internal inquiry into the death in police custody of Edson Msiska in January 2012 which led to the arrest of six officers and that three were acquitted whereas three are still being prosecuted.

Reads the report: “In the case of Fanikiso Phiri, it is unlikely that prosecution will be conducted. The case is fairly old, and no person has been arrested in connection with the case.

“In the case of Robert Chasowa [an engineering student of the Malawi Polytechnic], several arrests were made and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions [DPP] was furnished with a case docket.”

On their part, civil society organisations (CSOs) told the UN that although murder is punishable by death under Section 209 of the Penal Code, the effect of the decision of the Constitutional Court in Kafantayeni and others versus the Attorney General was that the death penalty was no longer mandatory in murder cases in Malawi.

The CSOs said 10 years after the Kafantayeni decision, not a single re-sentencing has been done.

But Chief State Advocate Pacharo Kayira told the committee that since the Kantayeni case, the High Court of Malawi has only meted death penalty on Jack Bandawe after considering the gruesome killing of the victim.

 

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