The death Sentence Institutionalised?

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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC), FIDH member organisation in Tanzania, make public today a report on the death penalty in Tanzania titled “Tanzania: The death Sentence Institutionalised?”. The report is the result of an international fact-finding mission carried out by the FIDH in October 2004, and prepared with the LHRC. The FIDH mission was refused access to the prisons of mainland Tanzania by the prison authorities in Dar Es Salaam but got information on the conditions of detention from other sources.

In Tanzania, no executions have taken place since 1994; however, individuals are regularly sentenced to death in murder cases, but no statistics are published about the number of condemnations. Under the Tanzanian Penal Code, the death sentence remains a mandatory penalty for murder while it can also be applied for treason. As of April 2003, 370 persons (359 males and 11 females) were awaiting execution in the prisons of mainland Tanzania in conditions that might amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The FIDH and the LHRC noticed a number of dysfunctions in the Tanzanian legal system, which seems to represent a threat to the rule of law, and an obstacle to reform:
the unwillingness of the Executive to have its decisions challenged in judicial proceedings, and;
the existence of a Penal System essentially based on retaliation towards the offenders rather than rehabilitation ; e.g. corporal punishments can still be applied for numerous offences, in spite of the fact that they clearly violate international and regional human rights instruments.
Furthermore, pervasive corruption in the police and the judiciary represents a serious threat to the due process of law, including in death penalty cases.

The wide power of arrest, the duration and conditions of the pre-trial detention and the use of violence by the police result in miscarriages of justice. The legal representation of an accused facing death penalty is problematic as a number of prisoners are indigents. “The legal aid available is insufficient to cover the entire case, in spite of the fact that legal representation for an accused person is both a constitutional and a statutory right in Tanzania. This leads to situation were prisoners facing the death penalty are not legally represented and have to write their appeals by themselves!”, said Harold Sungusia from the LHRC.

The courts do not always exclude evidence obtained under duress. Furthermore, the presidential commutation or pardon is a privilege and not a right of prisoners on the death row. They cannot apply for such a pardon or commutation, as the President is the only one who might take such an initiative.

“An overwhelming majority of the people met by the FIDH delegates declared themselves opposed to the death penalty, however the government does not seem ready to take steps in favour of abolition”, said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH. “What the people of Tanzania need most is a fair justice system that aims to apprehend, convict and appropriately punish offenders in a human manner”, concluded Sidiki Kaba.


FIDH and LHRC make the following recommendations to the authorities of Tanzania:

 To adopt a de lege moratorium on capital punishment as a first step towards abolition
 To ratify the UN second optional protocol of the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture
 To make public statistics on the number of death sentences each year
 To legislate for a mandatory appeal (or review) of a sentence of death penalty
 To abolish corporal punishments
 To incorporate international human rights instruments ratified by Tanzania into domestic legislation
 To bring the conditions of detention in line with relevant international human rights standards, including basic facilities and medical care
 To allow NGOs visits in prison, including death row quarters
 To implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission of Tanzania, in particular regarding the conditions of detention.

View online : Report also available in swahili
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