Veritas Draft Death Penalty Abolition Bill

The complete document can be downloaded below.  What follows is merely

an explanatory memorandum

Death Penalty Abolition Bill, 2019

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Memorandum

Section 48 of the Constitution protects the right to life but states that a law may permit a court, in limited circumstances, to impose the death penalty on men convicted of aggravated murder.  Section 48 is permissive, and its effect is that Zimbabwean law does not have to provide for the death penalty, even for murder.  The penalty has not in fact been carried out in Zimbabwe for more than 15 years.

This Bill will accordingly abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe.

The individual clauses of the Bill provide as follows:

Clause 1

This clause sets out the Bill’s short title.

Clause 2

This clause will prohibit any court from imposing the death penalty.  It will also state that if the Supreme Court hears an appeal against the death sentence it must substitute some other appropriate penalty.  The clause will also prohibit execution of the death penalty.

Clause 3

This clause will amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act by deleting references to the death penalty and repealing sections that set out how the penalty is to be imposed and carried out.

Clause 4

This clause will remove a reference to the death penalty from section 4 of the Genocide Act, which allows it to be imposed for the crime of genocide.  Since the section allows the death penalty to be imposed even for conduct that does not amount to murder committed in aggravating circumstances, it is unconstitutional.  For that reason alone the section needs to be repealed.

Clause 5

This clause will remove references to the death penalty from various sections of the Criminal Law Code.  The effect of the clause is that the maximum penalty for murder will be imprisonment for life.

Clause 6

This clause will remove a reference to the death penalty from section 3 of the Geneva Conventions Act, which allows the penalty to be imposed for grave breaches of the Conventions, even if they do not involve murder.

Clause 7

This clause will provide for the re-sentencing of prisoners who are under sentence of death (i.e. awaiting execution) when the Bill becomes law.  These prisoners will be brought before the High Court for re-sentencing, and the court will have power to impose any appropriate sentence on them, taking into account all the circumstances including the nature of the crimes they committed, the length of time they have been in prison awaiting execution, their health and the likelihood of their committing further crimes.  The prisoners will be entitled, if they so wish, to appeal to the Supreme Court against their new sentences and to apply to the President for clemency under section 112 of the Constitution.

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