President wins praise for saving death row prisoners


TWO United Nations (UN) human rights experts have welcomed President Lungu’s decision to commute the death sentences of 332 prisoners to life terms.
UN special rapporteurs on summary executions and torture Christof Heyns, a University of Pretoria professor, and Juan Méndez, an Argentine lawyer, said the decision is welcome and urged Government “to take a step further by removing all references to the death penalty in the country’s laws”.
This is according to the Pretoria News monitored yesterday.
President Lungu commuted the sentences after his visit to Kabwe’s Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, which has a capacity of 51 inmates but houses hundreds.
“This decision is in line with the trend in Africa, as in the rest of the world, to move away from the death penalty. As the secretary-general of the UN has said, there is no room for this form of punishment in the 21st century,” Prof Heyns said.
And Prof Mendez said: “By commuting these death sentences, Zambia puts a stop to mental and physical pain and suffering.”
The two UN independent experts noted that President Lungu’s decision supports previous steps towards the abolition of capital punishment in Zambia.
A presidential moratorium on the death penalty has been in place since 1997 in Zambia.
Prof Heyns and Prof Méndez, however, called on Zambian authorities to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly’s resolution calling for a global moratorium, rather than abstaining, as they have in the previous four votes.
The special rapporteurs said three-quarters of world states have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

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