Malawi will not abolish the death penalty, UN told

Malawi will not abolish the death penalty from its laws, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary and Solicitor General Janet Banda told United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

Banda said when  formally presented the responses to the committee’s question on whether the country had plans to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] ICCR by amending the Penal Code in order to formally abolish the death penalty.

She said  Malawi retains the death penalty and, as such, has no intentions to ratify the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

Death penalty will still be in Malawi laws: Banda (2nd from L ) and her team after the presenting the position
Death penalty will still be in Malawi laws: Banda (2nd from L ) and her team after the presenting the position

“There are no immediate plans of abolishing the death penalty. Malawian courts still impose death penalties on persons convicted of murder,” reads a response.

“Since the dawn of multiparty system of government, no person sentenced to death has been officially executed. As at early June 2014, there are 29 people on death row at Zomba Central Prison.”

In 2011, the then Attorney General  Justice Jane Ansah also told UN that the country will continue to listen to the voices of the people of Malawi regarding the issue of the death penalty.

Ansah said when deciding to ratify international instruments, Malawi is guided by its constitutional requirements.

Murder, treason and armed robbery are punishable by hanging in Malawi but the country has not carried out an execution since 1992, and is therefore believed to have a policy or established practice of de facto abolition.

In 2007 the High Court ruled that the automatic nature of the death penalty in Malawi for murder and other offences violated the right to life and amounted to inhuman punishment as it did not provide the individuals concerned with an opportunity to mitigate their death sentences.

Chief State Advocate Pacharo Kayira told the committee that the High Court of Malawi has only meted death penalty on Jack Bandawe after considering the gruesome killing of the victim.

The European Union (EU) has been calling for the universal abolition of death penalty, stressing that countries still conducting executions must abolish this “cruel and inhuman punishment.”

Britain, which is Malawi’s largest bilateral donor, also urged Malawi to abolish capital punishment.

The influential Roman Catholic Church,  other prominent Christian churches and rights groups have also  yearned  for the death penalty  to be abolished, generating a heated debate over the years.

Former president Bakili Muluzi, who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 following the country’s first democratic elections, vowed that he would “never sign a death sentence against a fellow human being” during his rule.

Muluzi was credited for improving human rights after three decades of late Kamuzu Banda’s absolute dictatorship under which rights were seriously abused.

Former presidents late Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda did also not sign a death warrant.

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