The Road to Abolish the Death Penalty

By Isabella Obara

On 22nd September 2022, IMLU joined the High-Level discussion on Pathways to Moratorium on the use of the death penalty as convened in New York. IMLU’s core mandate is founded on the fundamental right to life. As such the use of the Death penalty remains a grave human rights violation due to the unacceptable risk of executing innocent people as well as the absence of scientific proof that the death penalty indeed deters crime-especially for capital offences.

More than 5 years later, Kenya is still handing down death sentences, this practice is ongoing despite the progressive 2017 Kenya Supreme Court declaration on the mandatory death penalty. This declaration underscores that the death penalty is unconstitutional and as a result judicial discretion as to whether the sentence should be imposed was introduced.

Kenya remains one of the “de facto abolitionist” states, as on record she has not executed anyone in the last 10 years. The standard practice in Kenya for the death penalty is death by hanging as was introduced and practiced by the British colonialists. The last of this in Kenya was in 1987 when Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were executed for their role in the 1982 failed coup.

The death penalty law in Kenya remains in force despite a dissenting legal opinion from both recent precedent and research. We remain hopeful that stakeholders in the space will continue to engage, advise and research until the death penalty is abolished.

So far 22 African Countries have abolished the death penalty. The recent entrants are Zambia and Sierra Leon. Australia has affirmed its support for countries working towards abolishing the death penalty.