UNDP hope for better on death penalty

Lilongwe: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) believes that the launch of the study of Malawian Traditional Leaders’ Perspectives on Capital Punishment could contribute to a more informed discussion on the death penalty in the country.

Senior Human Rights Adviser at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Neal Gilmore said this Wednesday when he made the closing remarks during the launch of the study at Golden Peacock hotel in Lilongwe.

He said the key findings of the survey are an overwhelming majority of the 102 traditional leaders surveyed believe that the State should not use the death penalty to punish individuals convicted of murder.

Only six of the 102 traditional leaders surveyed stated that death was the appropriate penalty for murder. The rest preferred a term of years, life imprisonment with opportunity for early release or life imprisonment with no opportunity for release, Gilmore explained.

The UN Adviser pointed out that traditional leaders have varied reasons to oppose the death sentence as a result this has been the common explanation believing that people could change after being transformed at a prison facility.

Many traditional leaders expressed concerns that innocent people can be hanged. Closely linked to their conviction that prisoners are capable of reform is the notion that returning prisoners benefit the community and their family once released whether economically, through emotional support or by serving as a role model to others, he added.

The Adviser pointed out that the UN welcomes the de facto moratorium on executions in place in the country since 1994 along with the decision in the case of Kafantayeni and others v. Attorney General, in which the Constitutional Court declared that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional.

He noted that the amendments to the Penal Code in 2011 allowing courts discretion in sentencing murder suspects, following which a death row re-sentencing project was introduced.

Gilmore welcomes the efforts of Government, Judiciary and other stakeholders demonstrated by the prompt resentencing hearings of persons sentenced to death.

He observed that if the country had a de facto moratorium in place for over twenty years and making serious consideration be given to a de jure moratorium.

Gilmore said currently, more than 80 per cent of the Member States of the African Union have either abolished introduced moratoria by law or in practice on the death penalty.

A prisoner released through the Malawi Capital Sentencing Project, Baison Kaula testified that prisoner on death sentence are more transformed than those that are serving years sentences.

He said prisoner son death roll they suffer a lot of trauma and they endure a lot in prison and they are very few who are committed back to prison after being released.

I believe death sentence is not a better solution as a punishment since all that are o death penalty are all guilty of their offences, Kaula viewed.

The study was conducted by Paralegal advisory Service Institute (PASI) with the help of Cornel University and 102 traditional leaders were involved.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA