A Member of parliament from UK, Lord Navnit Dholakia has commended the government of Tanzania for having not been implementing death penalty in recent years, saying it is a sign of mature democracy of a civilised society.
He also advised Tanzanians to repeal the law on death penalty because it is against human rights; instead the country should encourage public education and national debate on finding alternative punishment.
Lord Dholakia from Liberal Democrat party gave the remarks when speaking at a press conference yesterday in Dar es Salaam during his one day visit in the country to share a number of issues on death penalty with government officials, relevant authorities, the media and other stakeholders.
Tanzania still retains death penalty in law, but has had a de facto moratorium on executions since 1994. It imposes death penalty in capital offences such as murder cases, treason, and military-related offences.
Responding to reporters’ questions on whether corrupt officials and murderers be executed or not, the Lord whose country abolished the death penalty way back in 1969 said death penalty is not a solution to such cases; because it is not a deterrent factor to crimes.
“I commend the government of Tanzania for not implementing this law on death penalty. We believe that the first duty of a state is to protect citizens, not to kill them… and increasingly, countries across the world are advocating against death penalty,” he said.
Lord Dholakia who was born in Tabora region in 1930’s and studied in different schools in Moshi and Arusha region, said the decision of Tanzania’s government to observe values and human rights is a wise decision because sometimes a very high number of capital crimes are committed in moments of anger, stress, panic or under the influence of alcohol or drugs whereas in most cases people do not think rationally about their actions or consequences.
However, in a separate interview, a lawyer and protection officer for Tanzania Human rights defenders coalition Benedict Ishabakaki said that despite the de facto moratorium on executions, the government of Tanzania remains undecided on the abolishing the law on death penalty.
He said that for the past eighteen years, hundreds of prisoners convicted to death penalty have continued to be on death row waiting to be hanged.
He said as a human rights activist, he considers that the situation inflicts mental and psychological torture to prisoners on death row.
In recent years, there has been growing international momentum towards the abolition, particularly over the past two decades. In 2011 only 21 countries carried out executions, a figure that has fallen by more than a third over the last decade.