- President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia has converted the death penalty hanging over 97 prisoners to life imprisonment. Zambian government has been bombarded with criticisms for its failure to repeal the death sentence.
Most Zambians had expected a repeal of death sentence as soon as Mr Mwanawasa, a human rights lawyer, came to power in 2001.
That had not been the case, but Mr Mwanawasa refused to put pen to paper, authorising capital executions to take place, which according to the Zambian law, can only happen upon the approval of the president.
President Mwanawasa is also known for his open condemnation of death penalty and the appalling conditions of Zambian prisoners. He has therefore devised a measure of reducing overcrowding in the country’s prisons: he asked prison authorities to study prisoners that comport well for pardon for presidential pardon.
This amnesty covers seriously ill prisons as well.
A statement from the president’s office confirmed the granting of amnesty to 823 prisoners by the Zambian leader.
In the past, Zambia had been blamed for executing people found guilty of serious crimes -murder, treason, misprision of treason and aggravated robbery. Executions were defended to reduce the levels of crime in the country.
But human rights organisations have argued that death penalty has never succeeded in reducing crimes any where in the world. They said a many a times, innocent people are executed and once executions take place, the victims cannot be brought back to life.
Activists said the death penalty has contradicted the right to life guaranteed by the Zambian constitution.
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