GOVERNMENT is open to a consultative process for abolition of the death penalty and will do everything possible within its powers to respect the right to life, VicePresident Inonge Wina has said. Since 1997, Zambia has not carried out any execution of individuals sentenced to death after being convicted of murder, aggravated robbery or treason, which carry the mandatory death penalty under the Penal Code. Mrs Wina said successive heads of State have been commuting death sentences to life imprisonment and that President Edgar Lungu has commuted more such sentences than any other President in the country’s history.
The Vice-President said this yesterday during the commemoration of the 71st Human Rights Day. “The Human Rights Commission must, therefore, take advantage of the prevailing political will on one hand, and the good public will on the other, and scale up the ongoing public sensitisation on the possibility of abolishing the death penalty,” she said. Mrs Wina also urged law enforcement officers to implement the presidential directive on the need to stop acts of torture. She said Government is committed to enacting a law to criminalise torture in Zambia, in whatever form technocrats and experts will advise.
The Vice-President said there is also need to come up with a law which protects albinos. United Nations resident coordinator Coumba Gadio called for enhancement of human rights as the country moves towards the 2021 general elections. Dr Gadio said human rights violation such as violence can cause voter apathy. And Human Rights Commission chairperson Mudford Mwandenga commended Government for its efforts to enhance human rights through various means, such as changing the Zambia Prisons Service to Zambia Correctional Service. Mr Mwandenga called on various stakeholders to support Government’s efforts to enhance human rights.
“There is also need to end unnecessary detention of petty offenders and consider non-custodial sentences,” he said. Minister of Justice Given Lubinda said the ministry is working on the Anti-Torture Bill, which will be presented to Parliament during the next sitting. International Commission Against Death Penalty commissioner Tsakhia Elbegdory, who is also former Mongolia President, urged Government to consider abolishing the death penalty. At the same function, Supreme Court Judge Mumba Malila was awarded the 2019 Human Rights Defender’s Award for promoting and protecting human rights. This year’s commemoration was held under the theme, ‘Youths stand up for your rights’.