29 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Group Blasts 'Cruel' Judges Over Death Sentences

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A leading watchdog on parliamentary and judicial issues has scorned "cruel" local judges who continue to pass death sentences while ignoring signs that the government is keen on totally abandoning capital punishment.

In one of its regular bulletins on parliament and the courts, Veritas Zimbabwe said Tuesday the country has upheld a moratorium on the death penalty since 2005 and passing a death sentence was not in sync with the mood of the day.

Veritas welcomed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's recent decision to place death row inmates on life imprisonment this past week.

The President also pardoned 3,000 prisoners.

"The Clemency Order is welcome step, albeit a small one, towards abolition of the death penalty," said Veritas.

"No executions have been carried out in Zimbabwe since 2005, so there is an effective moratorium on the death penalty which is likely to continue for as long as the President, known to favour abolition, remains in office.

"In view of this it seems not only cruel but futile for the courts to continue sentencing people to death."

The group added, "Section 48 of the Constitution allows a law to provide for the death penalty; it does not say the law must do so.

"Hence abolition would not entail amending the Constitution, just a simple Act of Parliament removing references to the death penalty from the Criminal Law Code and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act."

Veritas has led the campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty in Zimbabwe. It has also written to the President asking him to enact legislation abolishing capital punishment.

The group has also drafted a Bill which it presented to the Justice Minister to abolish the penalty and has also sponsored petitions for government to commute death sentences to life imprisonment.

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