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Friday, 15 February 2013

Death Penalty, 6th Edition

The death penalty is here to stay. Delegates at nearly all provincial constitutional conferences have retained article 28 clause (3) of current draft constitution, which states that “A person may be deprived of life if that person has been convicted of a capital offence and sentenced to death”

The arguments advanced by the delegates for the death penalty seems to largely rest on its alleged "deterrent effect". Chifumu Banda MP says Zambia needs to maintain the death penalty because "some people would take advantage of the deletion and go on rampage killing people". He goes to suggest that, “people found guilty of murder by courts of law should be meted with capital punishment as a way of deterring other criminals that claim the lives of innocent people...".

Dora Siliya MP says we need to learn from other countries who are allegedly facing problems because of abolishing capital punishment. In her words, “other countries are now regretting because they abolished capital punishment and implemented life in prison because killings have now doubled and committing various atrocities.."

There are many credible reasons for having the death penalty. But the reasons being offered appears to be refuted in academic literature. One paper published in 2009 drawing on USA evidence concludes : "with state-level data from 1995 to 2006, this paper failed to find meaningful deterrent effect of death penalty...results show that even the state with most execution record does not have statistically meaningful lower homicide rate than no death penalty states...". One needs to be cautious about transferring results from different contexts but I think we can reasonably assume that Chifumu and Siliya are worryingly offering the wrong reasons.

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