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Veritas proposes re-trial for prisoners on death row in new abolishment push 

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By Leopold Munhende I Chief Correspondent 


LEADING legal think-tank Veritas has proposed re-trial of all inmates sentenced to death in a model law, presented as part of its latest push for the abolishment of the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

The Veritas Model Bill seeks to prohibit any court from imposing capital punishment for any crime and gives the High Court power to reconsider death sentences and modify them to life in prison or a proportionate penalty.

Presented by the organisation’s technical consultant Brian Crozier at an interactive session with senior journalists and editors Friday in Harare, it comes at a time abolitionists are preparing for the World Day Against the Death Sentence to be commemorated on October 10.

“Clause 2 of the bill will prohibit any court from imposing the death penalty for any criminal offence, prohibit the Supreme Court from confirming a death sentence on appeal and prohibit anyone from carrying out a death sentence,” said Crozier.

“It will also amend laws that legalise the death sentence such as the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Criminal Law Code, The Genocide Act and the Geneva Convention Act.

“All death row prisoners will be sentenced afresh by the High Court which will reconsider their sentences.

“They will be entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court against their new sentences and the President will be able to exercise his power of mercy under the Constitution.”

Although Zimbabwe’s last execution was in 2015, it has 62 inmates on death row. Some have had President Emmerson Mnangagwa grant them mercy and commute their sentences to life in prison.

According to Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) commissioner Willy Risilo the country has no hangmen, meaning the 62 will continue being kept in solitary confinement at the country’s maximum prisons.

A public survey by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI), a non-profit research organisation revealed that although 56.2 percent of Zimbabwe’s population favour the death sentence, 80% would accept abolition if government decided on it.