Abolish death penalty, Amnesty International urges Kenya

Amnesty International on Thursday praised Kenya for limits it has placed on use of the death penalty but urged it to join the 20 African countries that have abolished capital punishment altogether.

“Kenya has taken some progressive steps toward abolition,” said Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty’s lead advocate for eliminating the death penalty.

“But Kenya still has a way to go in reaching true abolition,” Mr Popoola added in an interview.

His comments coincided with release of an Amnesty report on the status of the death penalty worldwide.

It hails sub-Saharan Africa as a “beacon of hope” in the global effort to end state-sponsored executions.

The report highlights the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling last December that found mandatory imposition of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

But the court did not strike down the death penalty itself.

As a result, capital punishment remains lawful even though judges are no longer required to order it in cases of murder and armed robbery.

Kenya also has not executed any death-row inmates since 1987.

“There’s no political will (in Kenya) to carry out executions,” Mr Popoola said.

“So there’s no point in keeping a law on the books that isn’t being implemented.”

Great strides

In its report, Amnesty noted that “sub-Saharan Africa made great strides in the global fight to abolish the death penalty with a significant decrease in death sentences being imposed across the region.”

Only two sub-Saharan countries — Somalia and South Sudan — are known to have carried out executions in 2017, compared to five countries in the region in 2016.

Gambia last year signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moved to abolish its death penalty.

Botswana and Sudan, however, reportedly resumed executions this year.

Globally, Amnesty recorded 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017 —a four per cent drop from the previous year.

The report cautioned that these figures do not include thousands of executions that Amnesty believes were carried out last year in China, where, the NGO said, “figures remain classified as a state secret.”

Executions increased in the United States last year, with 23 Americans put to death — three more than in 2016.

“The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it,” commented Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary-general.

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