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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
death penalty provisions in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the
abolition of the death sentence
September 27, 2010
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of a new Constitution provides a unique opportunity for Zimbabwe
to show its commitment to the protection of internationally recognized
human rights by abolishing the death penalty in law. In line with
the commitment expressed in the Global
Political Agreement, to act in a manner that demonstrates respect
for the democratic values of justice, fairness, openness, tolerance,
equality, respect of all persons and human rights, Amnesty International
Zimbabwe is urging the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee to
demonstrate Zimbabwe's commitment to human rights by expunging
the death penalty from Zimbabwe's Constitution.
international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote
and fulfil the human rights for 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 in regard to 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 application
of the death penalty in Zimbabwe violates these rights.
The death penalty
in the current Constitution
of Zimbabwe was inherited from colonial Rhodesia. While the
Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees the right to life, it also allows
the state to execute its citizens 'in execution of the sentence
of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been
convicted'. 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
show that no known execution has taken place since 2005. However,
death sentences continue to be imposed. According to the Zimbabwe
Ministry for Justice, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs,
52 prisoners, one of them a woman, were awaiting execution in 2009.
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 three offences, namely treason; where the act of insurgency,
banditry, sabotage or terrorism results in the death of a person;
for murder and for attempted murder or incitement or conspiracy
to commit murder. Apart from treason and murder, mutiny is the only
other crime punishable by death. The method of execution is by hanging
or by firing squad.
in the number of offences punishable by death combined with the
five year 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. Amnesty International Zimbabwe is urging
the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee to demonstrate Zimbabwe's
renewed commitment to human rights as outlined in the Global Political
Agreement by taking the final step and expunging the death penalty
from the Constitution.
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