YAS challenges parley committee to demonstrate Malawi’s commitment to human rights

Youth and Society (YAS) – a frontline human rights and governance watchdog – has challenged Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to demonstrate Malawi’s commitment to human rights by expunging the death penalty from the Republican Constitution.

YAS Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka emphasized that Malawi has international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights for everyone within its jurisdiction, without discrimination.

Kajoloweka made the sentiments on Friday evening in Mzuzu when he submitted to the Committee his organization’s contribution to a public inquiry on the abolition of the death penalty in Malawi.

Charles Kajoloweka

He stressed that Malawi, as a signatory to various international human rights instruments, is obliged to respect and guarantee human rights, which 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 all of which are guaranteed under the Constitution and international law.

“Malawi 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), the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court — the latter of which specifically commits signatories to abolishing the death penalty from their penal codes, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),” he said.

The YAS director said it is high time Malawi emulated other African countries that have abolished death penalty. These countries include Rwanda, which abolished the death penalty in 2007, Burundi and Togo in 2009, Gabon in 2010, Benin in 2012, Congo and Madagascar in 2015, Guinea in 2016 for ordinary crimes and 2017 for military crimes, Burkina Faso in 2018, Chad in 2020 and Sierra Leone in 2021.

Kajoloweka added that at the regional level, executions are increasingly unpopular, with only 4 out of 55 African countries carrying out executions as of 2020.

“Since then, other regional bodies or civil society coalitions adopted resolutions and declarations advocating for a moratorium on executions as a step towards global abolition of the death penalty,” he said, arguing that death penalty does not deter crime.

He observed that countries, which execute commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime.

However, he said this claim has been repeatedly discredited, and that there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than life imprisonment.

“YAS believes that the consideration of the death penalty as a crime prevention method does not offer a solution to the problem of crime. Crime may be reduced through having better trained and equipped police officers, eradicating poverty and improving education amongst other things. Scientific studies have consistently shown that there are high crime rates in countries that retain the death penalty e.g. USA.

“The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted by the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 2002, concluded that it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment,” argued Kajoloweka.

Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, Peter Dimba, said he is impressed with the contributions various quarters of the people are making to a debate on the proposed abolition of death penalty.

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