, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – President Mwai Kibaki on Monday commuted the sentences of all death row prisoners in the country to life behind bars.
In a statement, President Mwai Kibaki said that he reached the decision after the advice of the Constitutional Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
“In exercise of the powers conferred upon me by sections 27(c) and 29(2) of the Constitution, I have decided and direct that the death sentences imposed on all the convicted prisoners who are on death row in Kenya, whether or not any appeals in relation to such convictions and or sentences have been lodged, or are pending, or have been exhausted, will stand commuted to life imprisonment with effect from today in respect of each and every such prisoner,” the statement sent by the Presidential Press Service read.
He however said the directive does not mean the abolition of death penalty in Kenya, which still remains a lawful punishment.
President Kibaki said the committee has taken into account the fact that there are currently over 4,000 convicted prisoners on death row in Kenya and that no death sentence has been carried out in the last 22 years.
Current laws do not also permit prisoners on death row to be gainfully or productively utilised by the prison authority, which is among the reasons that have been given for prison indiscipline and insecurity.
“The prolonged stay on death row causes undue mental anguish and suffering, psychological trauma and anxiety and may constitute inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment,” President Kibaki said.
The President has also directed relevant government ministries and departments to initiate studies and research to determine whether the continued existence of death penalty in Kenyan laws has any value or impact in the fight against crime and said: “There is urgent need to engage the public, the media and other stakeholders in order to promote national debate and build consensus on this important issue.”
The last known execution of death row prisoners is that of Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka who masterminded the abortive 1982 coup.
In the recent past there have been rising cases of unrest in Kenya prisons where death row prisoners often clashed with prison warders leading to deaths and breakouts.
In November last year, an inmate at Kamiti was killed while 11 others sustained injuries during an inspection for contraband items.