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Amnesty says death sentence on prison beauty queen retrogressive

Amnesty International called for the immediate commuting of Kamande’s death sentence to life imprisonment so that she could be rehabilitated/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Amnesty International-Kenya has expressed disappointed with the decision by the High Court to sentence a 24-year-old lady to death for murdering her boyfriend in 2015.

In a statement to newsrooms following the sentencing of Ruth Kamande on Thursday, the agency’s Executive Director, Irungu Houghton termed the ruling by Lady Justice Jessie Lesiit as retrogressive to Kenya’s record of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.

“We are concerned that Kenya continues to use this cruel, inhumane and outdated mode of punishment. This sentence is a blow to Kenya’s progressive record in commuting death sentences to terms of imprisonment,” he said.

Amnesty International called for the immediate commuting of Kamande’s death sentence to life imprisonment so that she could be rehabilitated.

“There isn’t any credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime any better than other lawful punishments,” Houghton said.

While sentencing Kamande, a former Lang’ata Women’s Prison beauty queen, Lady Justice Lesiit said her court had exercised judicial discretion noting that despite the death penalty having been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in December last year, it remained enshrined in statutes.

“In my view, the discretion to pass a sentence other than death in capital offences should only be exercised in deserving cases. I do not find this a deserving case and I think passing any other sentence than the one prescribed would turn the accused into a hero,” the judge said during Kamande’s sentencing on Thursday.

“I want young people to know that it is not cool to kill your boyfriend or girlfriend even where you feel disappointed or frustrated – don’t do it. Instead, it is cool to walk away and thereafter to forgive,” Lady Justice Lesiit outlined.

The judge said Kamande showed no remorse for stabbing her boyfriend Farid Mohammed twenty-five times hence the harsh penalty despite a plea for leniency by her lawyer.

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“Even though the police say they had inadvertently lost the pictures of the scene, the evidence of those who went there created a vivid picture of how it looked after the incident – they said that there was blood all over,” the judge observed in her ruling.

Justice Lesiit also declined a request by Kamande’s lawyers for leniency on the basis that the accused person had successfully applied to join the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for further studies saying the ex-beauty queen was free to enlist for courses within the prisons system.

The judge observed that the accused had shown manipulative behaviour as she had on many occasions secretly accessed Mohammed’s phone.

Speaking to reporters following the sentencing, the victim’s aunt, Emmah Wanjiku said the family was glad justice had finally been served.

“Anybody who thinks there’s no justice, there’s justice for victims and that’s what we were hoping for today. We’re glad that this day came and his grandparents, his sister was actually in court today when this verdict was given,” a tear-stained Wanjiku said.

“He had just completed his Information Technology course and he had made an effort working part-time to complete his education. He had just started his job when his life was cut short,” she said adding that Kamande was too controlling over Mohammed.

Kamande who has been in custody since 2015 was found guilty of killing Mohammed who was then 24-years-old in May.

Her lawyer Joyner Okonjo said she will appeal the sentence.

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