Think tank: Death penalty affects convict’s children, hangman himself

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By Anna Chibamu

AS Zimbabwe marked the World Day Against death penalty last Thursday, calls to abolish it continue, with local think tank, Veritas describing it as an inhuman act which had many more victims outside its intended target.

In a statement, Veritas said the problem has been worsened by the continuous postponement of executions on those who have been sentenced to death.

The last execution took place in 2005.

Veritas urged government to take a leaf from neighbours, South Africa who abandoned capital punishment some 20 years ago.

“The death penalty has many more victims outside its intended target,” said Veritas.

“For every day an inmate’s execution is postponed, there is a child hoping that their father will live just a little bit longer.

“May we never forget the children that have been affected mentally and emotionally as a consequence of this punishment.”

Added Veritas, “Children are orphaned in this way at the hands of the state which constitutionally pledges to act in the best interests of the child.

“Children suffer psychological trauma and long-term mental illness such as depression due to this practice and often face stigma as a result of their parent’s actions.

“The injustices inflicted upon the victim are never to be negated by empathy for the children but where we have a chance to act humanely, we should take it.”

This year marks the 17th commemoration of World Day Against the death penalty.

Veritas said the penalty tended to do much more than just kill one person but can affect an entire community.

“On this day, we take time to raise awareness on the effects of the death penalty and remind the government that the death penalty is slowly facing its hanging day as it has no place in the 21st Century human rights discourse.”

This year’s theme was chosen to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Children.

“Around the world, winds of change have been blowing.

“There is a growing realisation that the death penalty system is a system that infects everyone it touches and barely heals or deters from the disease of crime from the convicts, to the prison guards, to the convicts’ family and friends to even the hangman himself, no one is free from the psychological and emotional burdens the death penalty comes with,” added Veritas.

At present, In Zimbabwe, the death penalty is given its legal character through Section 47 of the Criminal Law Code.

Under section 48 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, the right to life is afforded but in certain instances judges may have the discretion to institute the death penalty.

In Zimbabwe, the death penalty is only applicable to men between ages of 21-75, while women are exempt.

Most countries around the world have abolished the Death Penalty and to date, 106 out of 195 in total have abolished the death penalty for all crimes; 8 for ordinary crimes, 20 are abolitionist in practice and 28 are still carrying out executions.

To date, in Zimbabwe, there 81 inmates on death row, some who have been on the list for more than 10 years.

Meanwhile, human rights body Amnesty International (AI) says, of the 1,281 people reported to be on death row in Malaysia as of February 2019, 568 (44%) are foreign nationals, who face serious obstacles to access adequate consular assistance and interpretation.