Tuesday, May 28, 2024

President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to abolish capital punishment gets support

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Renowned Copperbelt-based human rights activist Zebbies Mumba has supported President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to abolish capital punishment and the defamation of the President laws from the Zambian statute books.

When in opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND) promised to amend all laws that inhibit the growth of democracy and good governance, impede human rights and basic freedoms.

President Hichilema last Friday announced the official abolishment of capital punishment in Zambia.

In a statement, Mr. Mumba from Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) said it was gratifying that President Hichilema has walked his talk by assenting to the Penal Code Bill Number 25 of 2022 abolishing the Death Penalty and also repealing in its entirety all provisions of the Penal Code Act which provided for the imposition of the offence of Criminal Defamation of the President.

“ZCSD laud the President for the two milestones achieved as Zambia continues to enrich the ground for our growing democracy.It is always the practice in dictatorships and even in those leaders trying hard to present themselves as democrats that quite often, they use defamation and slander laws to silence critical opposition. It is gratifying that Zambia has moved on to do the right thing as we strengthen our democracy. There have been claims for decades that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to those who would commit crimes. But there have also been claims that executions “brutalize “society because government agencies diminish respect for life when the death penalty is applied. Zambia has not been executing those convicted to face death penalty as no executions have been conducted for some time now,” Mr. Mumba stated.

“Abolishing the death penalty law makes Zambia domesticate the provisions of the International Human Rights Covenants to which we are party to. ZCSD notes that “Death Penalty” is the opposite of “Human Dignity and Rights as well as Rule of Law”, as no law nor court nor human being is flawless but can always improve. Death is irreversible. The President has indeed made a very good timing on the side of the Government as we have a few weeks before the UPR of Zambia takes place in Geneva starting 30 January – 3 February. Zambia deserves praise for this. The US has chosen Zambia as their focal country in Africa for the Summit of Democracy in the year 2023 taking place 29 – 30 March where Zambia will have a leading and coordinating role in the Summit. In going forward, there is need for the government to actualise the provisions of the Gender Equity and Equality Act,” Mr. Mumba said.

Capital punishment was a legal penalty in Zambia. Despite its legality, the country last executed in 1997. Zambia was considered “Abolitionist in Practice.”

There were at least 9 new death sentences in Zambia in 2021 and 257 people were on death row at the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, MISA Zambia Chapter has welcomed the repealing of criminal defamation and Government efforts on Freedom of Information Bill.

MISA Zambia Board Chairperson Rev. Fr. Barnabas Simatende, OMI, said his chapter is saluting the government for its efforts on law reforms.

“MISA Zambia welcomes the repeal of Section 69 of the Penal Code which is Defamation of the President. This section made it a crime to defame the President in Zambia and attracted a jail term of up to three years. Since MISA Zambia was formed, it has on countless occasions lobbied different regimes to repeal this law as it was inimical to media freedom and freedom of expression. Unfortunately our pleas fell on deaf ears until now,” Fr. Simatende said.

“We are therefore delighted as MISA Zambia that finally the New Dawn Government has repealed this oppressive law that has seen many journalists charged under it and detained for various periods. In the same vein, MISA Zambia is elated that the state has put in full swing the process to enact the Access to Information (ATI) Bill. We are also happy that they have developed a roadmap which details the steps towards its enactment. We therefore commend the government for these efforts on law reforms,” he concluded.

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