18 June 2018

Kenya: Prisoners File Cases Against Death Sentences

Photo: Premium Times
Hanging rope (file photo).

Six months after the Supreme Court declared the death sentence unconstitutional, tens of prisoners convicted and sentenced to hang have filed petitions at the High Court seeking re-hearing of their sentences.

The prisoners', the majority of whom are serving life terms after their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment - want the court to set them free, having served considerable time behind bars.

In their petitions at the High Court in Mombasa, the prisoners said they have reformed and are remorseful for their actions, hence the need for the court to re-evaluate their sentences and hear their mitigation afresh.

One prisoner said he has been in custody for the past 16 years and has lived cordially with inmates and prison authorities. "I have attended several rehabilitation programmes and courses which have been assisting me, and will continue to assist me when given a chance to go back to society," reads a petition by one prisoner.

PREMATURE

But the Director of Public Prosecutions has filed an application seeking for orders that all matters related to re-hearing of sentences should not be fixed for hearing until the formulation of a framework to deal with them, as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Through senior prosecution counsel Japheth Isaboke, the DPP argues that the Supreme Court judgment provided a rider to its decision that the Attorney General, The DPP and other relevant government agencies shall prepare a framework and rules to deal with the re-hearing of sentences.

"The rules or framework for hearing the petitions as filed herein have not been established and hence it will be premature to hear the matters as they are," said Mr Isaboke.

The prosecutor also said some petitions emanate from judgments outside the jurisdiction of the High Court in Mombasa, hence a foreseen difficulty in accessing, moving and providing original certified records of court cases to the station.

VERIFICATION

According to the DPP, copies of the court records served by the prisoners need verification by relevant courts to avoid doctoring of proceedings. The Supreme Court declared that the death sentence as provided under the Penal Code was unconstitutional but said its order does not disturb the validity of the death sentence as contemplated under Article 26 (3) of the Constitution. The apex court also directed its judgment to be placed before Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, the AG and the Kenya Law Reform Commission.

The apex court also directed its judgment to be placed before Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, the AG and the Kenya Law Reform Commission. Justice Eric Ogola directed that the application by the DPP be served to the prisoners through their respective officers in the prisons they are being held, as well as to the Law Society of Kenya, Mombasa branch.

The case will be mentioned on June 25.

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