Minister of Justice Honourable Given Lubinda, MP joined several Ministers of Justice from around the world when he attended the 11th International Congress of Justice Ministers held from 28th to 29th November, 2018 under the theme “A World Without the Death Penalty” The meeting which brought together Ministers of Justice and members of the Nuncio and civil society, was held at the Italian Parliament under the auspices of the Community of Saint Egidio in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy.
In his remarks, the Honourable Minister stated that a just world was not possible while the death penalty was in place. He told the meeting that the right to life was enshrined in the constitution of Zambia. However, the same constitution gave powers to the courts to determine sentencing within the purview of the law, which also provided for capital punishment. In the same vein, the minister stated that judges in Zambia prefaced their death sentences by stating that they were bound by the law to hand down the death sentences because the Pénal code has the death penalty as a mandatory sentence in cases of murder, aggravated robbery using a fire arm and treason.
He further informed the meeting that the last execution of the death penalty in Zambia was done in 1997 and since then there have been a number of commutations to life imprisonment. He also emphasized that President Edgar Lungu had committed more death sentences than any of his predecessors. The Hounourable Minister stated that consequent to the foregoing, Zambia was a defacto death penalty abolitionist state.
He further informed the meeting that although Zambia traditionally voted on abstaining when there was a vote on abolishing the death penalty, government was in support of a moratorium on such capital punishment. He said, as the constitution stood, the death penalty was in place and until such a time when the people of Zambia decided to amend the constitution to abolish the death penalty, the status quo would continue to obtain. He mentioned however, that government was in the process of sensitizing the populace on the need to do away with the death penalty as it was at variance with the principle of the right to life as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. He said there was need for the Zambian society to reflect upon this provision of the law and encouraged international and local NGOs, faith-based organizations and other CSOs to get involved in creating awareness among citizens about the need to abolish the death penalty.
Further, that due to the importance that the Zambian Government attaches to people’s rights, on 10th December Zambia would be commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted on 10th December 1948. He invited Saint Egidio to send a delegation to participate in the event in Zambia.
Earlier on, during the opening session, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Mr. Enzo Moavero Milanesi addressed the meeting and stated his government’s commitment to abolition of the death penalty as this was traditionally the position of the Tuscany Region of Italy in the 18th Century before Italy became a nation state. As such, the tradition was carried on to present day Italy.
Honourable Lubinda was accompanied by Mr. Silumelume Mubukwanu, Counsellor Economics.