By JOSEPH MURAYA, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – Kenya has been asked to consider abolishing the death penalty since it is not compatible with the fundamental tenets of human rights, in particular human dignity, the right to life and prohibition of torture or other cruel treatment.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee said if the death penalty is abolished here, the rest of Africa is likely to follow suit.
“To us, Kenya is a beacon of hope in a state of fragility we have seen in the neighbourhood. We need a Kenya which is actually the paradigm of human rights, the paradigm of mercy, inclusion and above all the paradigm of equality where women and child rights are respected. This is where it is actually happening. The change is happening in Kenya,” he stated.
“Whatever happens here it is going to have a ripple effect to the neighbouring States too.”
He applauded President Uhuru Kenyatta over his recent move to commute all death sentences in the country to life in jail, terming it as a good move.
Some 2,747 death row convicts are now serving life imprisonment following President Kenyatta’s directive.
This includes 2,655 male convicts and 92 female convicts who will be removed from death row to serve life sentences.
The last commutation of death sentences to life imprisonment was done in 2009 by then President Mwai Kibaki.
“Considerable progress has been made towards the universal abolition of the death penalty in recent years. Currently, around 170 member States of the United Nations have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it,” Chatterjee said. “Most recently, seven States abolished death penalty for all crimes.”
He quoted recent remarks by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who had said “I remain convinced that there is no place for the death penalty in the twenty-first century.”
“We welcome the fact that despite the fact that Kenya has the death penalty in its law books, it has not carried out any execution around three decades,” he said.
The last execution in Kenya was carried out in 1987.
“We hope that the Government of Kenya will respond to the call of the Secretary General and take further steps to move from the current de facto moratorium towards the full abolition,” he appealed.
He said Kenya should ride on the recent mass commutation and work towards establishing an official moratorium on the death penalty, aiming at its full abolition for all crimes.
Chatterjee further cited a recent report at the UN General Assembly that proves that there is no evidence that “the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment.”
“It is not the severity of punishment that deters wrongdoers but its certainty.”
To curb crime, the UN has recommended that the focus should be channelled towards the justice system by ensuring it complies with the international human rights law.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori on her part says the death penalty must be abolished since the Kenyan justice system is still ridden with corruption and ineffectiveness that leaves innocent suspects vulnerable.
They were speaking during the commencement of a two-day experts’ workshop on assessing public attitude on the death penalty in Kenya on Thursday.
“The death penalty has a severe physical and psychological impact on inmates and their families possibly amounting to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law,” she said.
According to Mbogori, it was even more expensive to maintain inmates on death row, “since most governments are reluctant to execute death row inmates.”