NEW YORK | NAIROBI (IDN | GIN) – While American leaders bicker over the fate of the death penalty, with 17 inmates going to their deaths so far this year, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed commutation documents commuting all death sentences into life imprisonment.
The documents, signed this week at State House, Nairobi, affect some 2,747 death row inmates - 2,655 men and 92 women. The last commutation of death sentences was in 2009 by then President Mwai Kibaki who commuted the sentences of over 4,000 prisoners.
Invoking the Power of Mercy under the Constitution, President Kenyatta also signed pardons and released 102 long-term serving inmates.
Power of Mercy entails granting pardons to reformed and rehabilitated convicted criminal offenders deserving early release from prison.
In a related matter, Kenya’s High Court last month approved a petition by law student and death row inmate Wilson Kinyua on behalf of 11 death row prisoners that challenged conflicting sentences given for similar offenses. Kinyua has been a student of the UK-based African Prisons Project and has since received a Diploma in Common Law and is pursuing a Masters degree at the University of London.
The petitioners, led by Wilson, argued that for the death sentence to apply, one should first have the opportunity to defend oneself following the case hearing through the process of mitigation.
The favorable ruling means that mitigating factors and other pre-sentencing requirements have to be received and considered by the courts in order for a fair trial to take place – abolishing the mandatory death sentence currently prescribed for a capital offence.
The court, however, did not rule against the death penalty across the board stating that “the death sentence is not a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. However, it just cannot be meted to any person convicted of a capital offence.”
The judgement has been suspended for 18 months in order for the law to be reviewed for inconsistencies. The petitioners, however, are calling for an immediate resolution to their cases.
Advocates for ending the death penalty include Hands Off Cain, whose petition seeking the abolition of capital punishment can be found at http://www.handsoffcain.info/ [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 October 2016]
Photo: President Kenyatta signing commutations. Credit: International Scholarships.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.