Malawi Court declares death penalty unconstitutional

By Joseph Dumbula

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Malawi has ruled that death penalty used in the Southern African’s nation is unconstitutional, bringing an end to a long standing debate over the law and igniting yet another talking point.

Calls for the review of the law have been there for long as several death row convicts have had their sentences reviewed or commuted to life imprisonment. It also came rife recently as having gone through the Periodic Review at the United Nations, government committed to review all death sentences.

On Wednesday, a   panel of seven judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal has stated that the law was against international human rights standards implying that a life sentence will now be the highest punishment.

Among other things, the court indicated that death sentence is unconstitutional because it abolishes a right to life.

With this, the court then has ordered that all prisoners who were sentenced to a mandatory death sentence will how now be given a chance for re-hearing in order to be re-sentenced.

The landmark stance came after an appeal by Charles Khoviwa who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Capital punishment has long been mandatory in Malawi for prisoners convicted of murder or treason, and optional for rape.

Violent robberies, house break-ins and burglaries could also be punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Executions have however not been carried out since Malawi’s first democratically elected president, Bakili Muluzi, opposed the punishment when he took office in 1994.

There are slightly below 30 inmates on death-row in the condemned convicts section at Zomba Central Prison on a suspenseful wait with no access to interaction with fellow convicts.

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