By Duncan Mlanjira
A number of activities have been organised by Malawian capital punishment campaigners, Reprieve in observing the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty scheduled for Zomba Prison where children and families of former death-row inmates, as well as former death-row inmates themselves will share their stories.
Celebrated under the theme, ‘Children, Unseen Victims’, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, observer on October 10, every year with a sole purpose of campaigning for the complete abolition of the death penalty in the World.
“It seeks to encourage and reinforce the global effort in fighting for abolition to public opinion and decision-makers,” says a press statement from Reprieve.
“World Day provides an opportunity to exert pressure on states that retain the death sentence to abolish it and/or call for the permanent end of the death penalties and executions in the World.
“Malawi is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since1993. Further, it ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR in 1996 allowing for the right of individual petition to the UN Human Rights Committee.
“Importantly, Malawi has practised the de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1992. Despite such positive advancements, Courts in Malawi continue to sentence people to death.
“Such is the case as the Constitution, while proscribing the arbitrary deprivation of life, makes an exception for circumstances where execution of the death sentence is imposed by a competent court on a person in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Malawi of which he or she has been convicted (Section 16 of the Constitution of Malawi).
“With the recent and current hunting and killings of persons with albinism, not only have new death sentences been imposed (4 as at point of writing but with a possibility of the number increasing), but calls for the return of executing those sentences to death have terrifyingly been raised.
“Believing that death is not justice, Reprieve is organizing the Commemoration of the World Day against the penalty.”
The statement further says speakers and invitees at the event in Zomba, to be overseen by prominent lawyer Professor Ngeyi Kanyongolo and law student Bentry Nyondo, will also include members of the community of people living with albinism, members of the diplomatic corps, government representatives, judges, lawyers, students, representatives of civil society and the public at large.
“Aimed at shifting political and public opinion, the conference will share the experiences of families with focus on those who have experienced the loss of a father, mother, son, daughter, husband to the death penalty.
“The idea is to reveal and examine the violations of human rights and challenges faced by the convicted person’s family caused by the application of the death penalty.
“Finally, considering the current debate on the killings of persons with albinism and the death penalty, a member of the group will be requested to make an appeal against the death penalty calling for efforts to be invested in protecting and promoting the lives of persons with albinism as opposed to focus on the aftermath of imposing the death sentence, as the death penalty is not a deterrent.
The objectives of the event include sharing experiences of children and family members left behind by a convict facing the death penalty and to provide a forum for the diplomatic community, the church, civil society, experts and stakeholders to take a stance and commitment to advance moving away from the death penalty and take stock of the situation of capital punishment in Malawi.
It will also discuss current trends of misrepresenting the death penalty as a deterrent to the crimes committed against persons with albinism and map counter strategies.