Magu­fuli un­der pres­sure to re­peal the death penalty

Post-in­de­pen­dence Tan­za­nia lead­ers not en­thu­si­as­tic about sign­ing death war­rants

The East African - - NEWS - By APOLINARI TAIRO Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

Tan­za­nia has come un­der fresh pres­sure to abol­ish the death penalty, echo­ing Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli’s as­ser­tion this past week, that he does not in­tend to en­dorse any ex­e­cu­tion of death row con­victs.

Tan­za­nia is one of the 21 coun­tries in the world where the death penalty is still le­gal.

Dr Magu­fuli’s pre­de­ces­sor, Jakaya Kik­wete, be­fore com­ple­tion his sec­ond term in Novem­ber 2009, com­muted the death sen­tences of 75 con­victs to life im­pris­on­ment. Pres­i­dent Ben­jamin Mkapa did not ex­e­cute any­one but, Ali Has­san Mwinyi ex­e­cuted one in 1994, and Julius Ny­erere two.

Last week, Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli told Chief Jus­tice Prof Ibrahim Juma that he does not even want to look at a list of death con­victs re­quest­ing his en­dorse­ment “be­cause I know how tor­tur­ing it is.”

Harold Sun­gu­sia, a hu­man rights ad­vo­cate, says that ex­e­cu­tion by hang­ing is in­hu­man and should be abol­ished.

“Tan­za­nia should abol­ish the death penalty and re­place it with life im­pris­on­ment”, he said.

Mr Sun­gu­sia ar­gued that con­victs sen­tenced to hang are tor­tured psy­cho­log­i­cally be­cause of not know­ing their ex­e­cu­tion date.

The na­tional co­or­di­na­tor for Tan­za­nia Hu­man Rights De­fend­ers Coali­tion, Mr Onesmo ole Ngu­rumwa, said: “We sup­port Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli’s de­ci­sion not to sign any cer­tifi­cate of ex­e­cu­tion.”

Mr ole Ngu­rumwa said sev­eral peo­ple con­victed to death by hang­ing, were later freed on ap­peal. “Our le­gal ma­chin­ery is not per­fect enough to prove be­yond rea­son­able doubt, the guilt of of­fendors brought be­fore the courts. There are sev­eral cases where in­no­cent peo­ple have been taken to court,” he added.

Some 465 peo­ple were sen­tenced to death as at 2015, and among th­ese, are 20 women, Tan­za­nia Com­mis­sion for Hu­man Rights and Good Gov­er­nance said in a re­cent re­port.

The Com­mit­tee on Con­sti­tu­tion and Le­gal Af­fairs had in April ad­vised the gov­ern­ment to re­view the death penalty to al­low death row pris­on­ers who have been in prison for long to have their sen­tences com­muted to life im­pris­on­ment.

Cap­i­tal of­fences

Mr Rashid Shangazi, the com­mit­tee chair­man, said his team rec­om­mended for re­view of this form of pun­ish­ment be­cause de­lays in ex­e­cu­tions not only af­fect death row pris­on­ers, but also con­tra­vene the very hu­man rights covenants that Tan­za­nia has signed up to.

The Min­is­ter for Con­sti­tu­tion and Le­gal Af­fairs, Prof Pala­m­agamba Kabudi said Tan­za­nia would work out the is­sues raised by par­lia­ment.

The Le­gal and Hu­man Rights Cen­ter (LHRC) had said in its re­port that a death sen­tence is the most se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment that can be im­posed on an of­fender con­victed of a cap­i­tal of­fence, notably mur­der, trea­son and any other grave of­fences as spec­i­fied in the Pe­nal Code, Cap 16 of the laws of Tan­za­nia.

Dr Hellen Kijo-bisimba, the LHRC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, com­mended the pres­i­dent for his stance, but de­manded that he goes fur­ther and abol­ishes the death penalty.

De­spite pres­sure from law­mak­ers and ac­tivists call­ing for the killers of peo­ple liv­ing with al­binism to be hanged, Pres­i­dent Kik­wete did not sign their ex­e­cu­tion.

In Zanz­ibar, the Pe­nal Decree Act pro­vides the death penalty for mur­der.

Tan­za­nia has been a party to the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights since 1976 and also rat­i­fied the African Char­ter on Hu­man and Peo­ples’ Rights in 1984 and the Pro­to­col to the African Char­ter on the Es­tab­lish­ment of the African Court on Hu­man and Peo­ples’ Rights in 2006.

Pic­ture: AFP

Mark­ing In­ter­na­tional Al­binism Aware­ness Day in Arusha, Tan­za­nia. There have been calls for ex­e­cu­tion of killers of al­bi­nos.

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