Govt contemplates abolishing capital punishment

DAR ES SALAAM: THE government is contemplating on coming up with an alternative to capital punishment, after considering views from various stakeholders, majority of them considering it as inhumane in nature.

In fact, the government has given room to stakeholders, including the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), to discuss the alternative punishment, so as to protect the rights to life for all.

This was said in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday by the Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs, Dr Pindi Chana during a multi stakeholders’ dialogue towards abolition of death penalty in Tanzania, as part of activities to mark the international day against the death penalty.

The dialogue was organised by TLS in partnership with the European Union (EU) delegation to Tanzania as well as the Embassies of Belgium and Ireland.

Minister Chana said the government is monitoring and receiving opinion of wananchi and all other stakeholders collected through the Presidential Committee to investigate Criminal Justice System in the country, with many proposing the abolition of the death penalty. The committee suggested that the death penalty is unenforceable.

Stakeholders including the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) proposes that in the current dispensation, capital punishment should be commuted to life imprisonment.

“Our ears are on the ground and I promise that the government will work on the recommendations of the people because it is the government of the people,” she said.

She also said that this was the continuation of the government’s efforts to protect human rights, especially through taking on board recommendations of the commission to improve criminal justice system in the country.

“The commission was introduced to investigate criminal justice in the country but now we have to work together and think on the possible measures that we can take to repeal the death sentence with other punishment,” said Dr Chana.

She added that TLS has shown great support to the government in legal matters and their efforts are seen in the country.

Dr Chana said, “The aim of this dialogue is to discuss implementation of the death penalty in the country and discuss and propose important legal changes to abolish the death penalty in its entirety.”

In Tanzania, there are two offences which carry the death penalty: murder and treason.

Dr Chana said TLS has helped the Mama Samia Legal Aid by giving information to the public, educating the public and elaborating legal issues to the public and she is sure that TLS will come up with good alternatives on the matter.

Speaking in his opening remarks, TLS President Harold Sungusia said that the death penalty is just one among the penalties that have to be abolished and have an alternative punishment for those found guilty.

“For the past 28 years, people have been sentenced to death, but it has never been executed, so it gives a lot of stress to the prisoners who are in death row,” said Sungusia.

He added that it is a must to look deeper into the capital punishment, saying through the commission to improve criminal justice in the country there is public outcry to abolish the death penalty, with some quarters coming up with recommendations of alternative penalty.

Mr Sungusia said about 27 countries have abolished the death penalty and others have put an alternative penalty, so as to reduce the cruelty of the punishment.

Christine Grau, the Ambassador of the European Union to Tanzania said that the Union is willing to support the country in the process of finding an alternative punishment from the death penalty. She described the punishment as against human rights.

Africa is experiencing a trend of abolition of the death penalty, where more than 80 per cent of African countries abolished the death penalty in law or in practice while State authorities, judges, scholars, civil society all mobilised around this issue.

The abolition of the death penalty in Africa became an irreversible priority of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights since at least 1999 when it adopted the Resolution ACHPR/Res.42(XXVI)9, calling upon African Union Member States to observe a Moratorium on the Death Penalty.

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