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Parliament has final say on death penalty

by Staff reporter
19 Dec 2018 at 06:24hrs | Views
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has said it is up to Parliament to scrap the death penalty altogether from the country's statutes by amending the 2013 Constitution.

Ziyambi said this while appearing before the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights to speak about prison conditions, when senators asked him to explain why the death penalty still existed in view of the fact that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in favour of its abolition.

He said Zimbabwe last had an execution in 2005 as there has been a moratorium for the past 13 years.

"I believe that we are moving in line with other progressive countries, and on Monday, different countries were voting on the death moratorium at the United Nations to ensure the death penalty is abolished," Ziyambi said.

"When Mnangagwa assumed the presidency, one of the first things that he did was to commute the death penalty to a life sentence."

He said the 2013 Constitution had improvements in terms of moving closer to abolition of the death penalty, as it stipulated that women and young people under 21 years of age and men aged 70 years and above would not be executed.

"The status quo was a result of consultations done through Copac (Parliamentary body on Constitution-making). The President was desirous that we should remove the death penalty and that will entail amending the Constitution," he said.

"We have done a lot to respect the right to life and we have not been executing people. I believe Parliament will come to a common understanding and decide whether to completely abolish the death penalty or leave it as it is."

The Justice minister also said there was need to amend the Prisons Act to ensure it becomes the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Act in order to improve the lives of
prisoners.

On the death penalty, legal think-tank Veritas has been advocating for its complete abolition, saying death row prisoners were held in cruel treatment, given inadequate and unpalatable food and kept in solitary confinement for up to 20 hours per day.

"Added to this is the psychological torture they experience while waiting to be executed, not knowing from one day to the next whether it will be their last? Such treatment is dehumanising," Veritas said.

They said Zimbabwe was in the list of countries that have a de facto moratorium on executions.

Source - newsday

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