Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Malawians root for death penalty

Majority of Malawians preferred the death penalty to any other form of punishment, according to a recent public study. The report said the respondents warned against efforts towards scraping corporal punishment from the constitution, fearing that would give rise to serious criminal offenses.
The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament commissioned the report and its findings were revealed by the former committee Chairperson Atupele Muluzi. “Our committee established that this was the wish of most people in Malawi. This gave rise to suggestions that, perhaps, in cases where it is possible to mete out other forms of punishment to serious offenders, the presiding judges should have power of discretion. Otherwise, the truth remains that most Malawians would love to have that provision of the death penalty,” said Muluzi.

However, civil society organizations (CSOs) have kicked against death penalty. Through the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), they have argued that the law is ‘barbaric and inhuman’. HRCC Chairperson, Undule Mwakasungula, said: “In fact, research findings have revealed that the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes. So, what is the purpose for maintaining it?”

Mwakasungula further said some people are being wrongly executed; a development he said necessitated the need to get rid of death penalties throughout Africa. “To date, over 126 people have been wrongly hanged. Again, what’s the purpose of retaining this barbaric provision? There are other alternatives around, including life imprisonment,” said Mwakasungula.

However, the Malawi Law Commission, which carried out consultations over the issue, indicated in one of its reports that, in cases where prisoners are committed to life in prison, there was need to include prison reforms. “Otherwise, life imprisonment without the basic necessities in prison would be tantamount to meting a slow death on those committed to life-long prison,” read part of the report.

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