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HomeNewsZim Edges Closer to Abolishing Death Penalty Amidst Decline in Executions Across Africa

Zim Edges Closer to Abolishing Death Penalty Amidst Decline in Executions Across Africa

Zimbabwe is on the brink of a significant legal shift as a bill aiming to abolish the death penalty advances in parliament. This move aligns with a broader continental trend towards ending capital punishment, highlighted in the latest report by Amnesty International.

Despite the alarming global rise in executions, particularly in Iran and other parts of the Middle East, Africa has seen a contrasting trend.

The Amnesty International report released last week, emphasizes that while death sentences have increased in Africa, the actual execution rates have remained low.

According to Anne Denis, head of the anti-death penalty commission at Amnesty International France, “the important thing is that there are few death sentences actually carried out in sub-Saharan Africa.”

She further noted, “The region is on the path to abolition,” citing legislative progress in several countries.

Zimbabwe’s pending bill to abolish the death penalty is part of this regional momentum. If passed, Zimbabwe will join the growing list of African nations moving away from capital punishment.

Currently, around 30 African countries, including Kenya, Somalia, and Niger, still have the death penalty on the books.

However, most of these nations have not enforced it for several years. In fact, 43 out of Africa’s 54 countries have not issued execution orders since 2010, with most death sentences being commuted to life imprisonment.

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Amnesty International’s latest annual report provides a stark overview of the global state of the death penalty. Globally, executions soared to 1,153 in 2023, marking the highest number since 2015.

This increase was driven primarily by Iran, which accounted for 74% of all recorded executions.

However, the report also highlights a significant milestone: the number of countries carrying out executions reached a historic low, reinforcing the ongoing global shift towards abolition.

Amidst these global trends, Africa’s progress is noteworthy. According to the report, executions in sub-Saharan Africa more than tripled from 11 in 2022 to 38 in 2023. Nonetheless, these figures should be viewed in context. As Denis points out, the overall direction is towards abolition, with numerous legislative efforts underway.

The movement against capital punishment in Africa is gaining traction despite setbacks. In 2023, only Somalia enforced the death penalty, underscoring the continent’s gradual shift away from this practice.

“This rekindles hope that it’s only a matter of time before the world completely eradicates the death penalty,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa.

In addition to Zimbabwe, Kenya and Liberia also have pending bills aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

This legislative momentum is crucial in the broader fight against capital punishment, which Amnesty International continues to champion.

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“Despite the setbacks we have seen this year, particularly in the Middle East, countries that are still carrying out executions are increasingly isolated. Our campaigning against this abhorrent punishment works,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “We will continue until we have put an end to the death penalty.”

As the world grapples with the ethical implications of capital punishment, the progress in Zimbabwe and other African nations offers a glimmer of hope for human rights advocates and those campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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