Kill us or com­mute our sen­tence, say con­victs

A three-judge bench on Septem­ber 15 de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional the pro­ce­dures for sen­tenc­ing cap­i­tal of­fend­ers

The Star (Kenya) - - General News - JOSEPH NDUNDA @MuthuiN­dunda

Some 300 Death Row con­victs want to be killed. They want Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta to sign their death war­rants to pave way for their ex­e­cu­tion or com­mute their sen­tences to life im­pris­on­ment.

Pris­ons Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Or­der Case Com­mit­tee chair­man Luka Ki­maru said in the pris­ons he has vis­ited, Death Row con­victs say they want to die.

“But death can’t ex­e­cute the death sen­tence. That’s a pre­rog­a­tive of the Pres­i­dent,” he said. “Some of them have been waiting for the last 25 years.”

No Death Row con­vict has been ex­e­cuted since July 9, 1987. The Pres­i­dent must ap­pend his sig­na­ture to their war­rants be­fore this can take place. As­sis­tant com­mis­sioner David Macharia said the pris­ons should be cleared to do “what the law says” or the death sen­tence be abol­ished.

The law says con­victs of some cap­i­tal of­fenses, in­clud­ing mur­der, vi­o­lent rob­bery, trea­son and some mil­i­tary crimes, are only pun­ish­able by death.

Macharia said Death Row con­victs have been wal­low­ing in in­car­cer­a­tion for decades, caus­ing un­due con­ges­tion in cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

He said life im­pris­on­ment should be de­fined to state how long a pris­oner handed the sen­tence should stay be­hind bars. “In some coun­tries, life im­pris­on­ment has been set at 20, 25 and 30 years. How­ever, here in Kenya, it re­mains in­def­i­nite. Con­victs stay in pris­ons with their fate shrouded in un­cer­tain­ties,” Macharia said.

He said the in­def­i­nite wait causes un­due men­tal an­guish and suf­fer­ing. Macharia said the death sen­tence con­tra­dicts the sanc­tity of life.

There are more than 3,000 pris­on­ers serv­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment time — death sen­tence and life im­pris­on­ment — in max­i­mum se­cu­rity pris­ons. Cur­rent laws do not per­mit pris­on­ers on Death Row to be gain­fully en­gaged by pris­ons. This is one of the rea­sons cited for in­dis­ci­pline and in­se­cu­rity. They are held in iso­la­tion.

A three-judge bench com­pris­ing Luka Ki­maru, Stella Mu­tuku and Jessie Les­sit de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional the pro­ce­dures for sen­tenc­ing cap­i­tal of­fend­ers.

“The death sen­tence is not a cruel, in­hu­mane and de­grad­ing pun­ish­ment. How­ever, it can­not be meted out to any per­son con­victed of a cap­i­tal of­fence,” the judges ruled on Septem­ber 15.

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