Kill us or commute our sentence, say convicts
A three-judge bench on September 15 declared unconstitutional the procedures for sentencing capital offenders
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.