Skip to main content arrow-down arrow-tail-right arrow-triangle-right calendar camera compass download email eye facebook flag mail phone pin play send square-right tag twitter youtube badge message

30 Saved from the Death Penalty in Malawi - the Beginning of the End of the Mandatory Death Penalty in Africa

  • News
  • 27 Apr 2007

In a landmark judgment, the High Court of Malawi today declared unconstitutional the death sentences on all prisoners on death row.

In their unanimous judgment, the High Court ruled that the automatic nature of the death penalty in Malawi for murder and other offences violated the right to life and amounted to inhuman punishment, as it did not provide the individuals concerned with an opportunity to mitigate their death sentences. As a result, several dozen prisoners currently on death row, including the Applicant, Francis Kafantayeni, will fall to be re-sentenced with the death penalty as a possible, but only a possible option.

The legal team representing Mr Kafantayeni in the High Court included, Ralph Kasambira, John-Gift Mwakhwawa and Noel Chalamanda, Attorneys at Law and Fiedson Kapindu from the Malawi Human Rights Commission. They have been assisted by a team of UK lawyers Comprising of Saul Lehrfreund MBE and Parvais Jabbar (who run the Death Penalty Project Ltd in association with Simons Muirhead & Burton, solicitors) and Keir Starmer QC and Joseph Middleton of Doughty Street Chambers. They travelled to Malawi on a number of occasions before the hearing to co-ordinate the case and assist with the drafting of legal arguments. in addition, they attended the hearing in the High Court. Their assistance was partly funded by the Global Opportunities Fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and Doughty Street Chambers.

Saul Lehrfreund MBE, Parvais Jabbar, Keir Starmer QC and Joseph Middleton are part of a larger team that has been involved in successfully Challenging the mandatory death penalty in nine Caribbean Countries since 2000, and in Uganda in 2005, in a Case which saved 417 prisoners from the death penalty.

Saul Lehrfreund MBE and Parvais Jabbar, human rights lawyers and Executive Directors of the Death Penalty Project state:

The cases of at least thirty prisoners on death row in Malawi will now have to be reviewed. The implications for future murder trials will be the introduction of a completely new set of procedures restricting the imposition of the death penalty in the first instance. We are delighted with the jurisprudence from Uganda and other regions in the world has now been accepted in Malawi and that the decision reflects the notion that law should move progressively towards the greater protection of human rights. This decision is a milestone in the international Campaign against the death penalty.

Keir Starmer QC, who last year won the Bar Council Award for outstanding commitment to death penalty cases, said:

This is undoubtedly the beginning of the end of the mandatory death penalty in Africa. The implications for all English speaking jurisdictions around the world who retain the death penalty are profound.’

Latest news

Moving Away From the Death Penalty in Guyana
Read More
Why John Hayes MP is so wrong on the death penalty
Read More
Malaysia could lead way in abolishing death penalty
Read More
Launch of new resource: ‘Sentencing in Capital Cases’
Read More
Juvenile offender released in Belize after Caribbean Court of Justice quashes murder conviction
Read More
DPP returns to Taiwan with Keir Starmer QC MP
Read More
Moving away from the mandatory death penalty
Read More
Keir Starmer visits Taiwan to lobby against death penalty
Read More
New project will seek to build movement for abolition of the death penalty in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States
Read More
Simons Muirhead and Burton LLP recognised for its commitment to The Death Penalty Project
Read More
Sajid Javid has betrayed our values by giving way on the death penalty
Read More
Caribbean Court of Justice strikes down mandatory death penalty in Barbados
Read More
Moving away from the death penalty in Zimbabwe - has the time come for change?
Read More
New opinion study shows Zimbabwean public ready to accept death penalty abolition
Read More
All prisoners serving life sentence in Belize to be re-sentenced following major decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice
Read More
Split Decision (Private Eye on the JCPC's judgment in Jay Chandler)
Read More
UK judges uphold death sentence of Trinidad prisoner despite him “more likely than not” having serious mental illness
Read More

Stay up-to-date with our work