Zimbabwe: Appointment of new hangman raises grim spectre of imminent executions

Reports by Zimbabwean state media that a new hangman has been appointed raises grave fears that the country may be preparing to start executions again after a seven-year hiatus, Amnesty International said today.

Zimbabwe has not conducted any executions since 2005, the same year that the country’s last hangman retired.

Amnesty International southern Africa director Noel Kututwa said:

“This macabre recruitment is disturbing and suggests that Zimbabwe does not want to join the global trend towards abolition of this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment.

“The death penalty is a violation of the right to life which is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party.

"The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.”

Zimbabwe’s new draft Constitution, which will be put to referendum in the next few months, exempts women, men under 21 at the time of the crime and the over 70s from the death penalty. It also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment.

While these proposed limitations to the application of the death penalty are welcome, Amnesty calls for the death penalty to be abolished fully in the new Constitution, regardless of gender and the circumstances in which a crime was committed.

Amnesty is aware of at least 76 people on death row in Zimbabwe at present. Of these 76, only two are women. The practical impact of the provisions under the current draft to exempt women would therefore not significantly reduce the use of the death penalty.

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