TAMCODE recommends abolition of death penalty

AS Tanzania joins other countries to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty today, the Tanzania Media for Community Development (TAMCODE) has recommended amendment of the Penal Code to give judges the discretion to hand over life imprisonment sentences instead of the death penalty in capital offences.

TAMCODE Executive Director Rose Ngunangwa said in Dar es Salaam on Sunday that, the Parliament should amend Section 197 of the Penal Code to read life imprisonment instead of the current death penalty to give judges the discretion to decide otherwise, instead of the current trend where some feel that their hands are tied.

She said judges should use their discretion to hand over life imprisonment sentences instead of the death penalty in capital offences as it is in records that courts do and can actually make mistakes, a chance that could see innocent people pay for the crime that they did not commit.

“We believe, doing so, would help those wrongfully convicted to have a second chance for appeal and clemency,” she said.

She said TAMCODE is aware of Section 197 of the Tanzanian Penal Code which specifies clearly that ‘any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death,’ but it also appreciates that there have been some judges who have issued dissenting opinions in regard to the death penalty and thus sentencing those who would have other wisely been hanged, to life imprisonment.

“We also appreciate all efforts by sitting Presidents who have not signed any death warrants and not to mention of noble deeds to commute sentences for those on death row, a situation that has made Tanzania to retain its de facto stance ever since 1994. This for sure, deserves and accolade,” she said.

She said TAMCODE pleads with judges not to sentence those charged with murder to death, but rather to life imprisonment to spare the innocent.

Themed ‘Death Penalty, a Road Paved with Torture’, she said the theme comes at a time where the world has seen some testimonies over some of those on death row indicating that their confessions were done with influence of torture.

The interrogation process can be tricky and it is hard to prove for sure on whether a convict testifies willingly or under influence of a harsh punishment. It suffices to say that there are a lot of unspoken things behind every confession that you see, she said.

“While we rejoice on the de facto stance, TAMCODE would like to reiterate a call made by one among the most experienced retired Justice from the Court of Appeal in Tanzania Engera Kileo on the need to abolish the mandatory imposition of the death penalty due to the punishment being irreversible as “courts can and actually make mistakes sometimes and there are chances of committing human errors that could see innocent people executed,” she said.

The World Day Against the Death Penalty is observed every 10 October, it aims at unifying the global abolitionist movement and mobilizing civil society, political leaders, lawyers, public opinion and more to support the call for universal abolition of capital punishment.

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