BY BLAIR MHONE
The protracted legal debate over the death sentence may be coming to an end now that Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has begun holding consultation discussions with various parties on the potential abolishment and subsequent removal from the penal code.
The capital penalty has long been mandatory in Malawi for persons convicted of murder or treason, but it is discretionary for rape.
Court records show that 27 people are now serving death sentences in the country; however, according to Amnesty International, Malawi last executed 12 people in 1992.
Malawi has also been voting in favor of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty.”
To completely abolish the death penalty, parliament is soliciting input from various concerned stakeholders and the general public through these meetings, which will be held in all three regions of the country, prior to the enactment of a draft bill to be presented and debated in parliament after the excise.
According to Chairperson of the parliamentary committee, Peter Dimba, since 1992 presidents have been defying court orders by not signing the warrants hence the need to review the relevance of the penalty.
One of the stakeholders at the meeting, national coordinator for Catholic Commission for Justice Peace (CCJP) Bonface Chibwana , said the Catholic church wants the Death sentence abolished.
“The Catholic Church’s Pope Francis in 2020 issued a statement requesting the Catholic Bishops and all Catholics to advocate for the Abolition of the Death sentence and taking another life because the person took another’s life, does not change anything but legalize killing,” he said.
Meanwhile representing the Malawi Police service, Police Assistant Commissioner Levison Mangani said there was a need to hold a referendum on the abolishment of the death penalty with the citizenry given a chance to make their voices heard on the matter.
He said: “The Police is on daily basis go into the communities rescuing murder suspects from the mob because some people out there still believe in “eye for an eye”. It is important to engage the people directly because the abolishment of the death sentence may come with some consequences where mob Justice would increase, with people thinking the suspect would not receive befitting punishment when taken to court.”
The death penalty has recently also been a source of confusion in the judiciary, with the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2021 retreating a prior decision that had appeared to have abolished the death penalty.