Kenyan Supreme Court declares mandatory death penalty unconstitutional

December 2017: In a landmark judgment that will affect thousands of prisoners, the Supreme Court of Kenya has ruled that the mandatory death penalty violates fundamental human rights. SRT grantee the Death Penalty Project has been litigating this issue in Kenya for over 10 years, arguing that depriving judges of discretion over whether to impose a death sentence violates the right to a fair trial and amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life.

Prior to the judgment, any person convicted of murder, or robbery with violence, in Kenya would automatically receive the death penalty, without any consideration of the individual circumstances of their case. The judgment means that new sentencing procedures will now have to be adopted in serious criminal proceedings in Kenya. For the first time judges will be able to exercise discretion over whether the death penalty should be imposed, taking into account all mitigating factors, such as the mental health of the offender, the circumstances of their offence and good character evidence, to ensure that the sentence imposed is proportionate.

Parvais Jabbar, Co-Executive Director of the Death Penalty Project, said, ‘Over the past twenty years there has been a significant global movement away from the mandatory death penalty, recognising it as a cruel and inhuman punishment incompatible with fundamental human rights. Kenya will be the 13th country where we have successfully challenged the constitutionality of this archaic law. The decision will have a huge impact, not only on the thousands of prisoners it immediately affects in Kenya, but we hope it will also pave the way for further reform of the death penalty within Kenya and the Africa region more widely.’

Full story from the Death Penalty Project’s website:

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