Zimbabwe Urged to Remove Death Penalty in New Constitution

Press Release
July 26, 2012

Zimbabwe Urged to Remove Death Penalty in New Constitution

Latest Draft of Constitution Still Includes Death Penalty Provisions

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International called today on Zimbabwe authorities to remove the Death Penalty entirely from their new Constitution.

Section 4.5 in the new draft constitution, released July 18, allows for the imposition of the death penalty on a person convicted of murder "committed in aggravating circumstances, " but exempts from the application of the death penalty all women, men under 21 years at the time of the commission of the crime, and those over 70 years of age. It also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment.

The proposed provisions on the death penalty are disappointing since Amnesty International has consistently called on Zimbabwe to remove the death penalty entirely from the new constitution and join the global trend towards abolition of this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment. The death penalty should be abolished fully in the new constitution regardless of gender and the circumstances in which a crime was committed

The new proposals do not address the real problems of the death penalty in Zimbabwe. Under the existing constitution, both mutiny and treason, alongside murder, are crimes which are punishable by death. While mutiny and treason would now be excluded, Amnesty International is not aware of any prisoners on death row who were convicted for these crimes.

Amnesty International is aware of at least 56 people serving death sentences in the country at present. Of these, the organization is aware of only one woman currently on death row. The practical impact of the provisions under the current draft to exempt women would therefore not significantly reduce the use of the death penalty at all.

Amnesty International has been campaigning for total abolition of the death penalty in the context of the current constitution-making process since 2009, and for the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in a new constitution. The organization considers the death penalty a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

These rights are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party.

Amnesty International will seek further engagement with the Zimbabwean authorities on the death penalty and other issues of concern when the second draft is signed off by principals of the Government of National Unity.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.