8 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Zim Urged to Abolish Death Penalty As New Hangman Appointed

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The government has been urged to abolish the death penalty to prevent any future executions, after the recent appointment of a hangman.

Zimbabwe's laws provide for the death penalty, leaving it among a shrinking number of countries in the world that still legalise this punishment. The country's new constitution has continued to enshrine this into law, making only minor amendments to the current laws.

The new charter, which will be put to a referendum, exempts women, men under 21 at the time of the crime, and the over 70s, from the death penalty. It also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a 'mandatory punishment'.

Zimbabwe hasn't conducted any executions since 2005, the same year that the country's last hangman retired. But a new hangman has now been appointed, opening the door for at least 76 people facing the death penalty to be executed.

Human rights group Amnesty International this week urged the Zimbabwe government to abolish the law before any executions take place.

"This macabre recruitment (of a hangman) is disturbing and suggests that Zimbabwe does not want to join the global trend towards abolition of this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's southern Africa director.

He told SW Radio Africa that the death penalty is the "ultimate denial of human rights," and goes against the human rights laws Zimbabwe is a party too. This includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.

"The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state," said Kututwa.

"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, without exception, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner," Kututwa said.

He added that Zimbabwe "needs to come into line with international countries who no longer recognise the death penalty."

"While the proposed limitations in the new constitution to the application of the death penalty are welcome, we call for the death penalty to be abolished fully," he said.

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