A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Karonga has commended the highest court in the land—the Malawi Supreme Court—saying its decision to outlaw the death penalty is in line with the church’s teaching as regards “the sanctity of life.”
Father Joseph Sikwese, who is also Bishop Martin Mtumbuka’s secretary, said in an interview with Nyasa Times Friday that the decision by the court has to some extent reflected rationality and a touch of God’s spirit in the land.
Sikwese, referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.
“Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,” Sikwese said.
He said the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
He added: “Actually, as a Church in Malawi were are happy because the Church works with determination for its [death penalty] abolition worldwide.”
Malawi last executed around two dozen prisoners in 1992, according to Amnesty International.
More than 30 African countries still have death penalty in their books, but not more than half have carried out executions in recent years.
At the end of 2020, 27 people were known to be under a death sentence in Malawi.