President Hakainde Hichilema has taken a step towards upholding human rights by commuting the death sentences of 390 inmates to life imprisonment. The decision, which was announced by the Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister, Jack Mwiimbu, is in line with the UPND administration’s commitment to preserving life and upholding human rights.
Pursuant to article 97 of the Constitution of Zambia, the President has the power to grant pardons and substitute severe punishments imposed on convicted persons. The move to commute the death sentences of 390 inmates, all of whom are housed in the Mukobeko Male and Female Maximum Security Prisons, comes just a month after the President signed into law the penal code amendment bill, which abolished the imposition of the death penalty.
Minister Mwiimbu highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing the criminal justice system by working closely with all stakeholders, including the judiciary. He also expressed hope that the judiciary will explore alternative sentencing mechanisms for minor cases, in an effort to address the congestion in the country’s correctional facilities.
Zambia has a long history of using the death penalty, with 406 people being sentenced to death between 1964 and 1978, and another 140 remaining on death row by the 1980s. With this latest move, Zambia becomes the fifth sub-Saharan African nation to abolish the death penalty in the past decade.
President Hichilema’s act of mercy and commitment to human rights is a positive step towards a fairer and more just society.