The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) urges the Government to remain resolute on the suspension of death penalty and take practical measures towards abolishing the cruel and inhuman practice.
 
The suspension of execution of individuals convicted of capital offences since 1997 has earned Zambia a favourable human rights record in respect of being a Global family member of 170 countries which have either abolished death penalty or have suspended executions.
 
The Commission wishes to take this opportunity to commend successive Presidents, and President Edgar Lungu, for commuting death sentences to life imprisonment for individuals on death row during the past 22 years. The suspension of death penalty or moratorium on death penalty made Zambia a de facto death penalty abolitionist country.
Therefore, the recent calls by some sections of society to expand capital punishment offences in Zambia to legalise execution of individuals convicted of committing certain crimes are extremely worrying.

The Commission is urging the Government not to succumb to calls to either implement death penalty or expand offences punishable by death because such actions will seriously reverse the gains made by the country over the years towards towards abolishing death penalty.
 
The Commission strongly opposes death penalty because the right to life is too sacred to be deprived of under any circumstances either by an individual or by the State. It is the position of the Commission, which is consistent with the growing international human rights discourse, that life imprisonment is adequate punishment while killing convicts is the ultimate violation of human rights by the State.
 
There is sufficient evidence globally that death penalty does not deter individuals from committing serious crimes. It mainly serves as an act of vengeance and the State must be above making emotional decisions.
 
The majority of countries globally are persuaded by the growing evidence worldwide that innocent individuals are being executed as a result of miscarriage of justice or errors through the courts of law and the victims are usually the poor who lack sufficient legal representation.
 
It is impossible to reverse an execution even if it is later discovered that an individual was wrongly accused, convicted and executed. Hence the need to prevent such a permanent deprivation of life and instead impose life imprisonment to offenders of heinous crimes.
 
The Commission is concerned that in 2018, Zambia missed an opportunity to vote in favour of the UN Resolution on Global Moratorium on Death Penalty and instead opted to abstain. Equally concerning is the fact that Zambia has neither signed nor acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which abolishes death penalty.
 
The Commission is therefore encouraging the Government to take practical steps towards abolishing death penalty by undertaking appropriate national legal reforms, supporting the UN Global Moratorium on Death Penalty and acceding to the 2nd Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
 
[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Zambian Constitution (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 with an overall mandate of ensuring that the Bill of Rights is upheld and protected]

Mweelwa Muleya (Mr)
Spokesperson
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

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The mission of the Human Rights Commission is to promote and protect human rights for all people in Zambia through investigations of human rights violations, rehabilitation of victims of human rights abuses, education of communities and advocacy for policy and legal changes influenced by evidence based research

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