Death penalty violates human rights


May 12, 2012 Source : http://www.newsday.co.zw

Section 4.1 of the draft constitution has the encouraging sub-title “The right to life”, but this fundamental human right is almost immediately erased when, in subsection (2), the death penalty is announced.

“A law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on persons convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances . . .” reads the draft. 
Before we advocate for the death penalty, we need to take into cognisance the old adage that two wrongs do not make a right and in this case, two murders do not bring back a life.

We should not pretend that capital punishment is not murder because of the legal technicality behind it. While we do not condone criminals, including murderers, we think the death penalty is morally wrong.

Section 4.5 of the draft constitution has the sub-title “Freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment” and it clearly states: “No one may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” 

The cruel irony is that there is no worse torture than being on death row, living each day knowing that someone has the legal power to take away your life any time. By allowing the death penalty, the constitution would be presupposing the infallibility of the judicial system which is not always the case. 

Judges and juries, like any other human beings, are prone to mistakes and globally, there are documented cases where people have been wrongly executed by the State. In this country, we have had people wrongfully accused of murder; Cain Nkala’s case quickly comes to mind.

We are all aware of how the justice system is prone to manipulation by politicians in this country and it might not be surprising to have innocent people hanged for political expediency.

In a country like ours, where the police are known for lack of professional ethics, forced and falsified confessions can easily lead innocent people to the gallows.

It is also a shuddering thought that the State would employ a professional murderer in the name of a hangman. By implication, the executioner is a murderer who deserves to be executed as well.

A convicted murderer deserves severe punishment, but he or she is still a human being who deserves the chance to be corrected and rehabilitated, which is central to the modern-day prison system. 

Research has shown that although the death sentence represents a strong condemnation of brutal and violent crimes, it does not necessarily deter people from perpetrating violent crimes.
Those who clamour for the death penalty do not know that they have literally descended to ancient times where an eye for an eye was central to legislation and this, as Mahatma Ghandi once said, will make the whole world blind. It will only serve the purpose of advancing the murderous cycle.

The death penalty is a violation of human rights, especially the right to life that the constitution must safeguard

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