10 October 2014
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum joins the world in commemorating the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
This is the 12th annual commemoration globally, since the launch of the 1st commemorations by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty on 10 October 2003. 10 October is globally a date to advocate for the total abolition of the death penalty. The movement continues to gain strength, ground and legitimacy.
This year’s commemorations will focus on persons with mental health problems who are at the risk of a death sentence or execution.
In commemorating this day, the Forum acknowledges the partial abolition of the death penalty adopted by the government in terms of the new Constitution (Constitution Amendment No. 20 Act 2013), and notes with great concern the retention of the death penalty against men between 21 and 70 years old. The right to life is inviolable and absolute. In addition, the Forum is also concerned by the delays in addressing the plight of women already on death roll, in ensuring that their sentences are commuted. The constitution proscribes the carrying out of the death penalty on women. It is hoped that the government will take immediate action to regularise their situation to prevent further anguish and trauma on the part of these women.
In campaigning against the death penalty, the Forum strongly emphasises that death penalty is an ultimate form of torture. The certainty and cruelty of knowing that the state will conduct an execution upon an individual is enough to create mental trauma and distress on the part of the individual concerned. This is further buttressed by the fact that death penalty is irreversible upon execution of a person even if they are to be found innocent later on. This is not justifiable in a modern democratic state such as Zimbabwe.
We call upon the public to speak out against the legalized cruelty that the death penalty is. We also continue to encourage the judiciary to shun meting out the death penalty and to consider rehabilitative and punitive justice measures, which benefit not only the perpetrator but society at large. Further we call upon the government to adopt the necessary legislative and administrative measures to abolish the death penalty and also immediately regularise the status of women already on death roll and commute their sentences.