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Press Release: Commutation of Death Sentences to Life Imprisonment: A Welcome Move!

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

Press Statement: Nairobi, Thursday 27th July 2023​ For Immediate Release:

Commutation of Death Sentences to Life Imprisonment: A Welcome Move!

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) welcomes the recent commutations by His Excellency, the President, Dr. William Ruto as recommended by the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (POMAC), of all death sentences as of 21st November 2022 to life imprisonment.

This is a move in the right direction as it aligns Kenya with the global trends on the application of the death penalty. It is also in line with the various regional and international treaties and conventions that Kenya has ratified including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).

As a Commission, we continue to hold the position that the Death Penalty is the ultimate violation of human rights, disproportionately affects the poor, and as such has no place in our society. Kenya continues being a de facto moratorium State, with the last execution having taken place in 1987. There have been several Court pronouncements on the issue including the 2017 Supreme Court judgment on the Muruatetu case that declared the mandatory nature of the death penalty unconstitutional. The subsequent Taskforce set up by the Attorney General in 2018, to formulate a framework for the implementation of the Muruateu judgment, recommended that the death penalty be removed from our statute books. In July 2023, the Court of Appeal in the case of Julius Kitsao ruled that an indefinite life sentence is unconstitutional.

At the regional and international level, Kenya has been urged by various Treaty Body Mechanisms including the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee Against Torture as well as the Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to take the necessary steps to abolish the death penalty.

To this extent, the Commission urges the Executive through the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Legislature, to move Kenya to the next level and initiate a process of eradicating the death penalty and the indefinite life sentence from our statute books. KNCHR further calls for the Attorney General and Parliament to initiate the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that calls for States to abolish the Death Penalty.

The Commission will continue working with all State and non-State actors to move the country towards the abolition of the Death Penalty.

Haki Kwa Wote, Kila Wakati!

 Roseline DA Odede

 Chairperson

 Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

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