Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has said the country still has a death penalty law and that though it hasn’t been used since the change to a democratic government in 1994, it can be court’s discretion to apply it to any murder case including people found guilty of killing persons with albinism .
Tembenu said this during a SDG Question Time debate organised by Nation Publications Limited (NPL), Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and United Nations Malawi focusing on human rights which featured all the major parties ahead of the May 21 elections.
It has been 24 years since the Malawi government executed a convicted murderer, but during the debate one asked whether the country can allow has implementing the death penalty to deter attacks on people with albinism.
“Death sentence is still on the statutes and those who are being prosecuted (for killings and abductions) at the moment can still face it,” Tembenu said.
Tembenu disclosed during the debate that government has set aside 30 cases for prosecution and the State are speeding the cases.
False beliefs that the body parts of people with albinism bring good fortune have led to a series of attacks on them in Malawi.
But United Democrtaic Front (UDF) spokesman Ken Ndanda said during the debate thet imposing the death penalty for murder is a contentious one.
“Death penalty is an extreme which we can avoid by implementing the National Action Plan,” said Ndanga.
UTM Party’s representative Hellen Chabunya said on death sentence: “An Eye for eye will make us all blind but we need to stop the silencing of the people who are about to tell the truth on the killings and abductions.”
Malawi Congres Party (MCP) representative Edgar Chimanjira concurred with Chabunya: “What is disheartening is that people are being arrested but when they want to reveal the truth they are being killed right inside police custody.”
Justice Minister said the death of suspects is under investigation.
“Let us investigate the cases first, something which is underway but let’s be slow to make judgement lest we make wrong conclusion,” he said.
In his contributions, People’s Party (PP) representative Ben Chakhame said police should be “free to do their work” and allow the evidence of suspects to lead to the markets of body part for persons with albinism.
“We need special courts to expedite.The minister says we should wait; we will wait as we have with Robert Chasowa , Issa Njaunju deaths,” he said.
Meanwhile, many still believe the death penalty is the best way to deter potential murderers.
The United Nations, however, encourages Malawi to take other approaches to end attacks on albinos as Maria Jose Torres, the U.N. Development Program’s representative in Malawi, state the U.N. opposes the death penalty because “ it undermines human dignity” and “it is irreversible, meaning that innocent persons can be executed but if they prove she or he was innocent, it will never be reversible.”
She also said “ there is no conclusive evidence that death penalty is the deterrent to future perpetrators.”
Instead, Torres said, Malawi should strengthen its justice system to ensure that killers receive tough sentences.