The High Court of Malawi has released from jail eight prisoners on death row after judges commenced rehearing their cases in February this year, according to local press report.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula is quoted in the local daily that the eight were freed after the High Court reheard their homicide cases between February 11 and March 23 2015.
:“I can confirm that the eight convicts were immediately set free after resentencing, right now they have been reunited with their communities.”
In 2007 the High Court of Malawi abolished the mandatory death penalty. In what become known as the Kafanteyeni ruling the mandatory death penalty was deemed by the bench as unconstitutional as it amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life, denies an accused the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is running a ‘Kafantayeni Project’ which aims at giving a second chance to 170 prisoners on mandatory death sentence to be reheard.
Resentencing hearings give prisoners the opportunity to present mitigating evidence before the court so that a judge may be persuaded to hand down a sentence other than death.
The project is also being implemented by Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Legal Aid Bureau and Paralegal Advisory Service International (PASI).
Lawyer in Ministry fo Justice, Dziko Ndianthu Malunda said the State “will have to reconstruct files to ensure that no one is denied justice simply because of the missing file.”
There are 192 homicide cases pending resentencing out of which 22 have already been reheard. All the cases are being reheard at High Court Zomba District Registry
The Tilitonse funded project is also being implemented by Center for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance, Chancellor College Faculty of Law, Cornell Law School and Malawi Prison Service.
MHRC Executive Secretary Grace Malera said the cases will be heard on mitigation and aggravating factors.
The abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Kafantayeni and the fact that Malawi has not actually carried out an execution since 1992 puts the country in good stead to abolish the death penalty. Countries like Malawi that have made the transition to democracy increasingly see abolition of the death penalty as a necessary step to signal their commitment to human rights.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :