The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has ordered the government of Tanzania to remove from its statute books the death sentence imposed on persons convicted of murder.
Composed of ten justices, lead by President Sylvain Oré, the Court also directed Tanzania, as respondent state, to take necessary measures with one year within which to repeal the provision of section 197 of the Penal Code, which provides such capital punishment.
“This court orders the respondent state to take necessary measures within one year from the date of notification of this judgment to remove the mandatory nature of imposition of the death sentence as it removes the discretion of the judicial officer,” they declared.
The justices gave the orders when determining an application lodged by three convicts of murder, Ally Rajab, Angaja Kazeni alias Oria, Geofrey Stanley alias Babu, Emmanuel Michael alias Atuu and Julius Michael, who are citizens of the United Republic of Tanzania.
They found that Section 197 of the Penal Code does not provide the convicted person to provide mitigating evidence and the trial court is left with no other option than to impose the death sentence to the convicted person.
In their landmark judgment, the justices also ordered the respondent to publish in the websites of the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs the judgment in question and that such judgment should remain accessible at least for one year from the date of notification of its existence.
The Court in its closing of the four-week sitting of the 55th Ordinary Session held here further directed the government to provide a report in three months’ time on the implementation of the judgment and the status of the implementation.
They noted that the mandatory imposition of the death sentence provided for under the law constitutes an arbitration violation of the right to life, thus, the court found the respondent state to have violated the Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The justices pointed out that hanging a person is one of such measures that are inherently degrading, as the method of implementation of such sentence is indignity, torture and inhuman.
Therefore, they ruled, the respondent state by maintaining such sentence violated Article 5 of the Charter.
They, however, rejected the request by the applicants to be released from prison, as the violations of their rights as per Article 4 and 5 of the Charter had nothing to do with their applicability of their convictions.
Instead, the justices ordered for fresh sentencing hearing after the law amendments.
The applicants were arrested in September 2006 in connection with the murder of Jamal Abdallah.
On February 3, 2009, they were charged with the offence of murder at the High Court of Tanzania at Moshi. After a full trial, they were found guilty, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.
The High Court judgment was delivered on November 25, 2011. The applicants appealed to the Court of Appeal which is the apex court in the Tanzanian judicial system.
On March 25, 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld the Applicants’ convictions and confirmed the death sentences. It was at such point in time when they rushed to the African Court, alleging, among other factors, that the respondent violated Articles 4 and 5 of the Charter on the imposition of the death sentence.
Article 4 reads: “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.”
Article 5 states: “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status.