The United Nations has welcomed the release of 13 persons from death row in Malawi in pursuant to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal that prisoners sentenced to a mandatory death sentence are entitled to be resentenced.
In 2007, in the Kafantayeni case, the High Court declared that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional, being in violation of the right to a fair trial and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
Following amendments to the Penal Code in 2011 allowing courts discretion in sentencing murder suspects, the Malawi Human Rights Commission in conjunction with NGOs in 2013 launched a death row re-sentencing project, with 192 prisoners entitled to be resentenced
In a statement issued Friday made available to Nyasa Times, the UN resident coordinator in Malawi Mia Seppo is urging the government of Malawi to consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at abolition of the death penalty.
“By doing so, Malawi would join the approximately 160 of the 193 Member States of the United Nations that have abolished the death penalty or introduced moratoriums, either in law or in practice,” she says.
Seppo says, in line with the 2014 recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN calls on the Malawi government to review the Penal Code and ensure that the death penalty, if imposed at all, is applicable only to the most serious crimes as defined by article 6, paragraph 2 of the ICCPR.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) in conjunction with other non-governmental organisations launched a ‘Death Row Inmates Resentencing’ project in 2013 to facilitate resentencing of all convicts on death row. The project will phase out this year.
Other implementing institutions include the Paralegal Advisory Service International, the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa), Chancellor College and the Malawi Prison Service.