15th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Tanzania should declare the state of moratorium
Legal and Human Rights Centre has been advocating for the abolition of the death penalty to complement its endeavors to protect and promote the right to live since its establishment. The United Republic of Tanzania has kept hold of the capital punishments in its legal system before and even after independence. The death sentence in Tanzania is maintained for four major offenses which are murder, treason, terrorism and in military punishments. Section 197 of the Penal Code (Chapter 16), requires death penalty to a person convicted of murder. Sections 39, 40 and 41 of the Penal Code also carry the death penalty for treason and misprision of treason. Death Penalty t in Tanzania is also punished by Terrorism Act 2002.
The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania 1977 does not absolutely guarantee right to live as article 14 which states that “every person has the right to live and to the protection of his life by the society in accordance with law”, the same Constitution infringes the right by vesting the President with power to sign the death warrant and commute death sentence into life imprisonment. By embracing death penalty in its books, Tanzania is not only controverting its constitution but also regional and international conventions it has ratified counting, Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966, as well as the African Charter of Human Rights and People's Rights of 1981. All these conventions guarantee respect for human dignity and human rights.
The Legal and Human Rights Centre’s stance against the death sentence has been geared by justifications like:
- The death penalty affects the basic right to live in that it is a cruel, degrading and inhuman in nature.
- The death penalty is against regional and international human rights standards.
- The death penalty has not been instigated in Tanzania since 1994, therefore, Tanzania is considered to be an abolitionist state and is in a state of the moratorium.
In a bid to see the government scraps the punishment, LHRC has been championing numbers of strategic measures including creating awareness to the public and stakeholders to uphold the right to life. In 2008, LHRC in collaboration with Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and SAHRINGON Tanzania Chapter filed a constitutional case to challenge death penalty provisions.
Despite being in a state of the moratorium, with no execution of death sentences for over 20 years, death penalty continues to be imposed in Tanzania. Currently, there are at least 472 (20 female and 452 male) inmates with death sentences in Tanzanian prisons. Through media survey, LHRC was able to document 7 death sentences issued between January and June 2017, let alone 6 death punishments ruled by the High Court in Sumbawanga in the end of September 2017 against 6 relatives from Kalambo District in Rukwa.
LHRC commends President Magufuli’s decision against signing death warrants which are in contradiction of death penalty and upholds right to live. To cement the President’s affirmative stance in our legal framework LHRC calls upon the government and stakeholders to abide by the below suggestions:
- The government should officially declare the state of moratorium to suspend the implementation of death penalty and transfer death sentences to life imprisonment;
- The Law Reform Commission should spearhead legal reforms on sentencing in order to provide judges with an alternative to the death sentence.
- The Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs should start processes of amendment of the Constitution to ensure the absolute protection of the right to life in the Constitution;
- The government should sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to abolish the death penalty;
- The Prisons Services should allow civil society access to statistics on death row inmates and their conditions immediately in order to better inform the public on death row numbers and conditions;
- CHRAGG should immediately conduct awareness to MPs and officials from responsible Ministries on the alternatives to the death penalty in order to pressure the government to abolish the death penalty;
- Civil society should continue to conduct public awareness on alternatives to death penalty over the next year in order to influence the public to increase pressure on the government to abolish the death penalty.
LHRC calls upon all Tanzanians to exceptionally promote the basic right to live by avoiding any kind of violence that can lead to loss of life.