The death penalty has been ruled unconstitutional by Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal. “The right to life is defined by the sanctity of life itself. The right to life is the most important of all. Other rights do not exist without the right to life. The death penalty not only negates but also eliminates the right to life “, the Court (8:1) noted in its decision.
The court made this observation while granting an appeal filed by a man named Khoviwa, who had been sentenced to death. The majority judgement, authored by Justice D F Mwaungulu, states that the Malawian Constitution does not allow for the death penalty; rather, it prohibits derogation from the right to life.
Parts 38 (1) (for treason), 63 (1) (for piracy), 133 (for rape), 210 (for murder), 217A (2) (a) (for genocide), and 309 (1) and (2) (for housebreaking and burglary, respectively) of the Penal Code must be interpreted as meaning the full prison term – life imprisonment.
If life imprisonment becomes the maximum sentence, where it is not mandatory, by fiction, it cannot be imposed, reserved as it were for the worst instance of a crime. Courts are, therefore, likely, to pass a prison term of years. Those who have served long periods of their life or long sentences are likely to get shorter terms or immediate release.”, the court said.