The conference on the abolition or moratorium on the execution of the death penalty ended, yesterday, in Kigali with participants differing on which punishments to mete out to those who commit capital offences.
Though the majority of participants including Rwandans were in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, some were opposed to the move, alluding to verses from the Bible and Quran that advance the reciprocation of the same level of pain from sufferer to tormenter.
“According to the book of Leviticus, Chapter 24:21 of the Old Testament, ‘whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. In the same book and Chapter, Verse 19 says that if anyone injures his neighbour, whatever he has done must be done to him’.”
In the ensuing debate, Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, observed that death should be perceived as a natural concept, adding that there are many other alternatives other than the application of a death penalty.
“Death is an enemy of mankind. Why should we let it to be closer to us? Why don’t we leave it to come as a thief instead of us bringing it ourselves? If you kill someone, you have not punished him or her. In fact you have assisted him to go innocently. It’s the family he leaves behind that will suffer,” the Minister noted.
Karugarama told the participants that after Rwandans realised the negative impact of the employment of the death punishment, the government decided to abolish it in 2007, a move welcomed by the public.
Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, the chairperson of South African Law Reform Commission in an exclusive interview with The New Times challenged the participants to base their discussions solely on scrapping of the penalty without veering towards the effects the act would bear on the families of a wrong-doer.
“We must balance and put into consideration the side B of the story. If someone killed your brother, how would you need that perpetrator to be treated? Therefore, however much we are defending the killer, we need to have the common and balanced solution,” she noted.
Mokgoro noted that South Africa eliminated the death punishment in 1995 after realisation that it was an inhuman act that cannot be applied in civilised society.
Somali minister Hussein Ahmed Aideed, in an interview, opposed the death penalty saying if someone kills his/her colleague, they must face the same pain as quoted in the Bible and Quran.
“I don’t agree with what my colleagues are saying. Imagine if somebody kills your son. How would feel? It would be better if he or she gets the same punishment which even the holy books stipulate,” he opined.
As the conference drew to a close, participants were urged to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.
Participants also agreed that African countries should subscribe to human rights instruments that prohibit the death penalty like second optional protocol to the International Covenant to Civil and Political Rights and align national legislation accordingly.
Countries were further urged to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty as well as aspiring to principles of restorative justice.