Rome-Based Lay Catholic Association Hails Abolition of Death Penalty in Malawi

By Jude Atemanke

The leadership of the Rome-based lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts, Sant’Egidio Community, has hailed the abolition of the death penalty in the Southeastern African nation of Malawi.

“The Community of Sant’Egidio greets with great satisfaction the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court of Malawi that on April 28 declared the death penalty unconstitutional,” the officials of Sant’Egidio say in a news report dated April 30.

Malawi’s Supreme Court passed the ruling abolishing the death penalty, terming it unconstitutional and in violation of the right to life, Voanews reported.

The move is expected to see all statutes that prescribe the death penalty being amended. The maximum sentence for capital offences in Malawi (such as murder or treason, rape, violent robberies, burglaries and break-ins) will now be effectively amended to life imprisonment.

In the April 30 report, officials of Sant’Egidio say the Supreme Court’s verdict “is in fact a decisive act in the process towards its abolition in this southern African country.”

They explain that in recent months, “a document of recommendations was submitted to the government, drafted with the decisive contribution of Sant’Egidio in the person of the lawyer Alexious Kamangila, in synergy with representatives of the Reprieve association and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.”

“This document has also enjoyed the support of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and has proved decisive,” officials of the Rome-based association say in the report.

They further note that “this action of Sant’Egidio, in a country where it has been present for years with numerous initiatives in favor of the population, is part of the Community’s broader commitment towards a moratorium and abolition of capital punishment, carried out since 2005, together with that for the humanization of prisons.”

“This activity also includes a significant sensitization of civil society on the issue of rehabilitative justice,” they add.

Among the first companions of the campaign in Malawi, the Sant’Edigio leaders remember “Vera Chirwa, an activist who on several occasions took part in international conferences of Ministers of Justice, promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio on the theme of the abolition of the death penalty.”

“Throughout these years, numerous actions in favor of a reform of the prison system have also been carried out, while the awareness of these issues has grown through the annual celebration of Cities for Life – cities against the death penalty, a movement to which more than 2,300 cities worldwide adhere,” they add.

(Culled from ACI Africa for Nigeria Catholic Network)

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