Geneva, 28 May 2022 (TDI): The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Spokesperson Seif Magango remarked that the use of the death penalty is incompatible with fundamental human rights and dignity.

These remarks were made in the context of Zambia’s announcement of the abolition of the death penalty in the country. President Hakainde Hichilema made the announcement on this development in a speech on the eve of Africa Day.

“We warmly welcome the Zambian President’s pledge on 24 May to abolish the death penalty in the country and work with Parliament to end this cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment,” the OHCHR spokesperson said.

Since 1997, Zambia has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment. The formal abolition of law has been welcomed as a significant step forward for human rights in the country.

Currently, 170 countries have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium either in law or practice. OHCHR extends its full support, technical assistance, and cooperation to implement this initiative in the country.

For this reason, OHCHR called on the Government and the Parliament of Zambia to bolster President’s pledge with tangible legal reforms. The reforms would require amendments to the Penal Code Act and the Criminal Procedure Code Act.

Additionally, the humanitarian organization also urged the government to demonstrate further international leadership on this issue by the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights abolishing the death penalty.

In particular, OHCHR has urged the legal bodies in Zambia to relaunch the Constitutional Reform process to expand the Bill of Rights, with the explicit prohibition of the death penalty.

A Major Step Forward

The President of Zambia has committed to running this process and transitioning away from the death penalty. The decision has been made to preserve and rehabilitate life while ensuring the provision of justice for all.

Consequently, the President announced the pardon of 2045 inmates. He also commuted sentences for 907 inmates. In addition, the government is also addressing the issue of congestion in correctional facilities. Advocacy for community sentencing for minor offenses is included in it.