Amnesty International

Zimbabwe: Death penalty has no place in Zimbabwe, state urged to outlaw the “cruel” and “inhuman” punishment.

Zimbabwean authorities must abolish the use of the death penalty as it is a cruel, inhuman, and degrading form of punishment, Amnesty International Zimbabwe said today to mark the International Day Against the Death Penalty. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are prohibited absolutely under international law, including under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘Convention Against Torture).

Speaking on the 20th World Day Against the Death Penalty, AI Zimbabwe Executive Director, Lucia Masuka said:

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and torture and other ill-treatment are strictly prohibited
under international law. The world is moving away from the death penalty; 111
countries, constituting most of the world’s states, have now abolished the death penalty
for all crimes. There should be no place for the death penalty in our society. It is time
for Zimbabwe to abolish this cruel punishment.

AI Zimbabwe ExecutiveDirector, Lucia Masuka

Background

Zimbabwe has international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of everyone within its jurisdiction, without discrimination. These human rights include the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to a fair trial.

Zimbabwe has explicitly accepted obligations regarding these rights in the international and regional human rights treaties which it has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

The use of the death penalty in Zimbabwe violates the right to life. The death penalty was inherited from colonial times. While the Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the right to life, it also allows the state to execute its citizens where there has been a murder in aggravating circumstances.

The death penalty is currently legislated for in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07]

and the Defence Act [Chapter 11:02]. Current statistics show that no known execution has taken place since 2005. However, death sentences continue to be imposed.

On 13 April 2021, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered, among other things, the commutation to life imprisonment of the death sentences of all prisoners who had been on death row for at least eight years. People known to be under sentence of death at the end of 2021 in Zimbabwe were 66. One presidential pardon was granted to a person under a sentence of death, and the death sentences of 23 men were commuted.

Zimbabwe has already considerably restricted the scope of the death penalty: while at independence there were nine crimes which were punishable by death under Zimbabwean law; offenders can currently be sentenced to death for murder in aggravated circumstances and mutiny. The method of execution is by hanging. The reduction in the number of offences punishable by death combined with the hiatus in executions suggests that Zimbabwe is already heading towards joining a progressive trend in Africa where more countries are abolishing this inhuman and degrading punishment in the defence of human rights.

Africa is the region at the forefront of the fight against the death penalty. Last year, the Parliament of Sierra Leone adopted a law abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. This year alone, the legislative bodies of the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea took similar steps, following the repeal of the death penalty also in Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea earlier in the year. We are hopeful that we will soon see bills to this aim adopted in Liberia, and Zambia – and great advances in our own country as well.

As a step in that direction, we urge Zimbabwe to join most of the world’s countries and vote in favour of the forthcoming resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, which is due to be introduced at the 77th session of the UNGA in November 2022. The vote on this UN resolution would go a long way to show to the international community our country’s commitment to the right to life and the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Amnesty International Zimbabwe’s press office on:

Tel: +263 772 163 544/45/46

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @amnesty_zw

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