ZIMBABWE: GOVT URGED TO CLARIFY DEATH PENALTY ISSUE
October 30, 2013: The Government of Zimbabwe has been urged to come up with a clear position on whether or not it would abolish the death penalty in order to enable courts to make rulings that conform with the new Constitution.
Since the adoption of the new Constitution early this year, legal experts and civic society organisations have been calling for such laws as the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Genocide Act, the Defence Act and the Geneva Conventions Act to be aligned to the new Constitution.
Legal experts, Veritas on Monday said current laws providing for the death penalty were unconstitutional and should be amended as soon as possible so that they were in line with Section 48 of the new charter.
Section 48 stipulates that everyone has a right to life, but adds that "a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed . . ."
The section also restricts the circumstances under which the death penalty may be imposed. It, however, states that the death penalty cannot be imposed on men or boys younger than 21, or men older than 70, on women whatever their age, as well as that only a court must have the discretion whether or not to impose it.
"The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and the Criminal Law Code in particular, must be amended as soon as possible because murder trials are being held weekly, if not daily during court term-time, and when sentencing offenders convicted in those trials the courts must apply laws that conform to the constitution," Veritas said.
"Ideally, a decision to retain or abolish the death penalty should be made before the laws are amended because it would be fatuous to amend them to allow a constitutionally acceptable death sentence to be imposed and then to amend the laws again to abolish the death penalty altogether."
Veritas said if there was a law that allows for the death penalty in terms of Section 48 of the new Constitution, it should also be consistent with Section 53 which states that no one may be subjected to "physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy minister Fortune Chasi recently told Senate that shortages of drafters was hindering progress in aligning laws with the new Constitution. (Sources: bulawayo24.com, 30/10/2013)