Legal Affairs Committee recommends abolition of death penalty

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An inquiry report by the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC) has recommended that the country should abolish death penalty.

The development follows a public inquiry which PLAC instituted few months ago which was in response to the growing calls for the abolition of the death penalty to murder and treason convicts.

Apart from holding meetings with other relevant stakeholders, the committee also held three public inquiries, one in each region where the public and other stakeholders submitted their position on the calls for the abolition of death penalty.

On Wednesday, 3rd August, PLAC chairperson Peter Dimba presented findings of the inquiry where the committee announced its endorsement for the abolition of the death penalty in the country.

Dimba told legislators that their research showed that among others; death penalty fringes on human rights, it is unconstitutional and that it does not reduce crimes, disputing assertions that if abolished, there will be an increase in murder cases.

“The committee recommends that there is need for the country to emulate some of the best practices on abolition of death penalty from jurisdictions such as Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Mozambique whose legislature unanimously voted for abolition of death penalty from their laws.

“The committee also recommend that the country should consider abolishing death penalty law as it has outlived its purpose and it does not present any evidence to deter offenders nor grant an opportunity for the reformation and rehabilitation to offenders,” said Dimba.

He further told parliament that the fact that no Malawian president has ever signed a death warrant since 1992, indicates that the law is not necessary hence the committee’s support for its abolition.

The chairperson has also trashed calls for a referendum on the issue arguing that death penalty is not a prescription of the constitution and says a referendum cannot applicable in this situation.

“Some people were saying we should have a referendum on whether to abolish death penalty or not, but it should be noted that death penalty is not a prescription of the constitution but statutes,” he added.

Dimba then urged the Ministry of Justice to bring the bill to Parliament that will support the abolition of the capital punishment from the laws of the country.

Reacting to the development in an interview, human rights lawyer Alexious Kamangila who has been advocating for the abolition of the capital punishment, commended the committee for the recommendations on the matter.

Kamangila who is the Legal Clinic Manager and Reprieve Fellow, told Malawi24 that the recommendations really signify a historical moment in anticipation.

“Every research that has been conducted on the death penalty in Malawi, concludes with recommending abolition. It is hence progressive that PLAC Report is recommending abolition.

“Our MPs are looking at the big picture and listening to the cries of the poor, who are at the receiving end of Death Penalty.  Looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel of this historic moment, being led by our Ministry of Justice, championed by our Malawian MPs and initiated by Malawians of all walks of life,” said Kamangila.

All this is happening when last year on April 28th, the Supreme Court of Appeal made a judgement in a case involving Charles Khoviwa v The Republic which saw judges declaring that capital punishment as unconstitutional in the country.

However, in a twist of events, the court made a U-turn on the matter saying it never abolished the death penalty and that High Court judges are free to sentence murder convicts to death claiming the issue was never brought before the court for consideration.

Meanwhile, records from the Malawi Prison Service, shows that the country has 25 prisoners on death row.

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