On Africa’s Death Row: Hidden Consequences of Colonial Past

October 12, 2012 http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/

Crowded sleeping conditions in Mukubeko Maximum Security Prison in Zambia

Mukubeko Maximum Security Prison stands on a patch of dusty ground outside the provincial town of Kabwe, in Zambia’s Central Province. Mukubeko, or Maximum, as this place is known locally, is an imposing structure that was built for some 450 people but now houses over 1,600 male convicts and remand prisoners awaiting trial. Most of the prisoners spend their days out in the sun walking and talking in the central courtyard, avoiding while they can the stench and darkness of the tiny communal cells where they spend 12 hours a day crammed in together.

In a separate section that is completed caged in, the facility’s “condemned” prisoners are kept apart from the main population as they wait on death row for executions that will never happen. Their crimes include aggravated robbery, murder and treason and some have been here for as long as twenty years. Although Zambia continues to sentence people to death for these crimes, the country last carried out an execution in 1997. The story of these prisoners is not unique, and although less countries employ the death penalty the ghosts of old laws continue to linger and in many cases result in serious human rights abuses.

Globally the death penalty is in decline. As of this year, 101 countries maintain the death penalty in their law for ordinary crimes, although only 44 of those now regularly carry out executions. This figure has steadily declined from 54 in 2005. If we examine the geographical spread of countries that continue to execute, we find that Africa, at 30 percent, is the largest bloc within that group of 44. In terms of actual numbers of deaths however, China, Iran and North Korea between them carry out the lion’s share of the 5,500 or so executions that take place each year. The picture in Europe is radically different and all European Union member states have abolished the death penalty in law, withLukashenko’s Belarus the only country on the European continent that retains it.

 

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