Kenya retains the death penalty for murder, armed robbery and treason.

Although Kenya has been a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1972, it has neither signed nor ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR allowing for the right of individual petition nor the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Kenya ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1992 and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2004.
In 2009, President Kibaki commuted the sentences of all those on death row in Kenya. The decision affected over 4,000 prisoners in Kenya and is thought to be one of, if not, the largest commutation of death sentences anywhere in the world. The successful constitutional challenge to the mandatory death penalty in Uganda (Kigula) was a key underlying factor in the decision to commute all death sentences in Kenya, because similar, if not identical constitutional challenges were also pending before the domestic courts in Kenya which would have affected all death row prisoners. For more information on the commutations, see our Press Release

  • Mutiso  v Republic, Court of Appeal Mombasa, Criminal Appeal No.17 of 2008

In 2010, we assisted a local team of lawyers and the Kenyan NGO, C.L.E.A.R. in the case of Godfrey Mutiso who was under sentence of death having been convicted of murder. In a landmark judgment handed down on 30 July 2010, the Court of Appeal of Kenya ruled that the automatic nature of the death penalty in Kenya for murder violates the right to life and amounts to inhumane punishment, and declared unconstitutional the application of a mandatory death sentence on all prisoners convicted of murder. In addition, it also stated that holding a person on death row for more than 3 years would be unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal indicated that the same reasoning given in the judgment would apply to other offences having a mandatory death sentence, including treason, and robbery with violence. As a result of this ruling, hundreds of prisoners on death row in Kenya, including Mr. Mutiso, are entitled to be re-sentenced in accordance with the new law. For more information on the judgment, see our Press Release.

We have continued to assist Mr. Mutiso in the preparation of his re-sentencing hearing. In July 2011, we instructed a forensic psychiatrist to carry out an assessment of Mr. Mutiso and a psychiatric report has been prepared. The case is currently awaiting a mention date in Court for the re-sentencing hearing.

  • Michael Jimmy Obuoka v Republic

Since 2005, we have assisted a local team of lawyers and CLEAR in the case of Michael Jimmy Obuoka who was sentenced to death having been convicted of the offence of robbery with violence.  A constitutional challenge was brought before the High Court to the mandatory death penalty for capital robbery. The challenge had implications for thousands of other prisoners on death row in Kenya, who were eventually commuted by the President in 2009. Michael Jimmy Obuoka’s death sentence has also been commuted.

As a result of the ruling in Mutiso, we plan to carry out a series of training activities in 2013 to assist judges and lawyers in Kenya to adjust to the discretionary capital sentencing system. For more details, click here.



Forensic Psychiatry Training Workshop for Mental Health and Legal Professionals involved in Capital Cases  

On 1st February 2014, in association with the Kenyan NGO CLEAR, we held a forensic psychiatry training workshop in Nairobi for mental health and legal professionals involved in capital cases in Kenya.

The training provided specialised training and assistance to legal and mental health professionals in Kenya and provided a platform for exchange for medical practitioners and lawyers.