Hopes that the new constitution would scrap the death penalty are beginning to fade as the current draft specifies one of the duties of the President as ‘endorsing the implementation of the capital punishment’.
In the draft document, Article 69 (k) specifies that “the President shall have the powers to endorse the implementation of a death sentence as declared by the Court in accordance with the laws of the country.” Subsequently, Article 82- (b) of the document gives the President the power to commute a death sentence into life imprisonment.
The two articles however contravene Article 23 of the same document which guarantees individual’s right to life and protection of their life from the government and the society in accordance with the laws.
If incorporated in the coming constitution, Article 69 (k) will hamper efforts by anti-death penalty activists in the country who had been banking on the new constitution to scrap the capital punishment.
Against this constitutional background is the challenge to the legality of the death sentence lagging at the High Court of Tanzania for almost six years now.
On October 10, 2008, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in collaboration with the SAHRINGON Tanzania Chapter and the Tanganyika Law Society filed a case at the High Court of Tanzania challenging the imposition of the capital punishment on account that it violates the right to life.
Alternatively, they suggested that those convicted of murder should be sentenced to life imprisonment instead to enable them repent.
The European Union was recently quoted as saying it would make efforts to advise the government to scrap the capital punishment in the coming constitution.
The EU’s statement came in response to a question by this reporter who wanted to know their position on the capital punishment at a press conference to mark the EU week in Dar es Salaam.
Last Wednesday, an anti death penalty campaigner from the LHRC Advocate Harold Sungusia hailed the constitution draft on account that it had managed to incorporate most of human rights issues.
Sungusia however faulted it for failing to scrap the death penalty despite some section specifying on the right to life.
Activists argue that with the flaws in the judicial system there are chances that innocent persons may be wrongly punished for a crime they did not commit.
Statistics in the Tanzania Human Rights Report 2012 by the LHRC indicate that 97 countries have abolished the capital punishment while 21 others carried out execution in 2011 with China alone executing 1,000 people who were sentenced to death.
Meanwhile more than 16 countries in Africa had scrapped the capital punishment for all crimes as of 2012.
Tanzania still retains the punishment in its books and the last time someone was hanged was in 1994.
In Tanzania the death penalty is imposed in capital offences such as murder, treason, and military related offences.