Zimbabwe asked to strike death penalty as African death row statistics fall

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Amnesty International (AI) is appealing to rival Zimbabwe’s political leaders to abolish the death penalty as the southern African nation is attempting to craft a home grown constitution.

AI (Zimbabwean chapter) says Zimbabwe should join many other countries in Africa that have abolished capital punishment.

To mark the international day against the death penalty, the human rights watch dog said, ”Amnesty International believes the constitution reform process provides an opportune moment for Zimbabwe’s political leadership to support abolition of the death penalty.

“Abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe will bring the country into league with progressive trend in Africa, where more countries are abolishing this inhuman and degrading punishment in defence of human rights.”

Amnesty urged political parties driving the constitutional reforms to “play a leading role to persuade the Zimbabwean people to abolish death penalty in law.”

This week, AI is expected to petition government to abolish the death penalty.

“The creation of a new constitution presents a golden opportunity for Zimbabwe to join the worldwide movement of countries that have abolished the death penalty. That movement is gathering pace in Africa” reads part of the letter.

Of the African Union (AU)’s 53 states, 49 did not carry out any executions during 2008 and 2009 including many that still have capital punishment on their statute books.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has repeatedly called on AU member states to abolish the death penalty.

The United Nations General Assembly has also adopted resolutions calling for a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

“The death penalty is a violation of the right of the and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, rights which are recognized in the universal declaration of human rights and other international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party” the AI letter said.

In Zimbabwe, statistics show that no execution has taken place since 2005, although the courts have continued imposing the death sentence on offenders.

According to the latest figures available from the Ministry of Justice there were 52 prisoners on death row in Zimbabwe in 2009.

There is growing push in Africa and the world at large for abolition of the death penalty that human rights activists say is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, degrading and a violation of the supreme right to life.

Zimbabwe expects to complete writing a new constitution next year that will pave way for the holding of new elections to choose a new government to replace Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s coalition administrator.

Many hope that a new constitution will guarantee basic freedoms, strengthen Parliament and limit the President’s immense powers.

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