Reprieve for death row prisoners

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has commuted death sentences to life imprisonment for all prisoners on death row for at least 10 years.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

This is contained in Clemency Order Number 1 of 2020 released on March 24.

The clemency order also gives full remission of sentence for all convicted female prisoners, juveniles, and those over 70 for the remaining period of imprisonment that have served at least half of their sentences, save for those convicted of specified offences.

“A commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment is hereby granted to all prisoners who have been on the death row for at least 10 years and above,” Mnangagwa said.

“Prisoners serving an effective period of imprisonment of more than 36 months, who have served a third of their remaining sentence are hereby granted an additional one-quarter remission of the remaining effective period of imprisonment.”

The order excluded from the proposed amnesty prisoners previously released on amnesty, any prisoner serving a sentence imposed by a court martial, any prisoner who has a record of escaping from lawful custody and any prisoner convicted of committing any specified offences, which include murder, treason, rape or any sexual offence, carjacking and robbery.

Also excluded are prisoners convicted of stock theft, public violence, any conspiracy, incitement or attempt to commit any of the offences like murder, treason, rape, carjacking, robbery, stock theft, or public violence, and being an accessory to any of these offences.
MDC legislator Dorcas Sibanda, who recently moved a motion in the National Assembly to abolish the death penalty, said while the clemency order was welcome, Zimbabwe should completely do away with the death penalty.
“The commutation of the death sentence for only those that have served 10 years is kind of segregating others in my view,” Sibanda said.

“I think Zimbabwe should be progressive and completely do away with the death penalty so that those prisoners with crimes that constitute the death penalty all get life imprisonment terms.”

Mnangagwa’s clemency order also gives full remission of the remaining period of imprisonment to all bedridden prisoners for a prolonged time without recovery and all prisoners serving sentences at the open prison regardless of the crime.

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