NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 10 – Rights groups led by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on Monday joined over 600 inmates to call for abolition of the death penalty.
In Kenya, there are about 4,000 inmates on death row, a number likely to increase if the law is not amended.
They are also against life imprisonment and instead propose a sentence that has time limits.
The rights groups argue that the current laws providing for life imprisonment is ambiguous and doesn’t respect rights of prisoners as envisaged in the Constitution.
ICJ Programme Manager Access to Justice Anita Nyanjong called on Parliament to expeditiously deal with contentious clauses of the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code that provide the jurisprudence for death sentences.
“Kenya retains the death penalty for five offences. It has the highest number of people on death row in East Africa,” she pointed out.
One of the prisoners on death row Wilson Kinyua who spoke during the event at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison said, “the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
According to him, the sentence represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.
The sentence, is characterised with punitive conditions of detention and less favourable treatment are prevalent for reprieved death row prisoners, he said.
“It is irrevocable, and where criminal justice systems are open to error or discrimination, the death penalty will inevitably be inflicted on the innocent,” Kinyua asserted.
It such practices that Nyanjong lamented that fall outside international minimum standards, including those established under the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty.
Since 1987, no death sentence has been enforced in Kenya.
Already Ol Jorok MP John Waiganjo, who also present in the forum that marked World Day Against Death Sentence, has recommended amendments to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
Addressing the intimates, the legislator expressed optimism of that National Assembly will approve his amendments that will see Kenya join Uganda and Malawi in abolition of death sentences and life imprisonment.
“The debate on the removal of death sentence is rife. I have proposed to amend the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and the reasoning is clear since this country doesn’t execute,” he said. “You cannot subject a person to an endless litigation.”
Proponents of the death penalty assert that it has a deterrent effect on crime in society.
However, there has been no proven correlation between the death penalty and deterrence of crimes and countries that still maintain the death penalty in their statutes have not seen a downturn in crime.
A survey conducted by the UN in 1998 and later updated in 2002 found no correlation between the death penalty and homicide rates. According to the study, the hypothesis that capital punishment deters crime to a greater extent than does the application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment is flawed.
In Kenya, for instance, the fact that death sentences are handed down has not deterred commission of crimes for which such sentences are implemented.
“The key to deterrence is not to apply the death penalty but to increase the likelihood of detection of crime, arrest and conviction,” the legislator asserted.”We have a country where the leadership that has been given the mandate do not have the courage to sign the death warrant. The proposal is to remove it from our laws.”
The amendments by the legislator also seek to change the offences that attract life sentence like robbery with violence and treasonous offences.