death penalty

Death penalty for convicted HIV rapists unconstitutional – Lesotho court

A decision by the constitutional division of Lesotho’s high court has found controversial provisions in that country’s sexual offences law, unconstitutional. In particular, the court held that stipulating the death penalty for a convicted rapist, held to have known he was HIV positive at the time of the crime, infringed the constitutional right to freedom from discrimination and to a right to equality before the law.

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Just over 20 years ago, Lesotho’s then Minister of Justice, Law and Constitutional Affairs, Refiloe Masemene, introduced a new bill on sexual offences to parliament. Among other proposals, accepted by MPs and brought into law, was this: that the penalty for a convicted rapist, aware at the time of the crime that he was HIV Positive, was the death sentence.

Amnesty International death penalty report: a time for judges to reflect

In prisons across Africa, many thousands of prisoners sit on death row, uncertain whether they will be allowed to live. But as the numbers of condemned prisoners climb, with an estimated 5 843 awaiting execution in prisons all over Africa, debate over the death penalty is also growing. The newest report from Amnesty International, released this week, shows some stark contrasts.

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The publication of Amnesty International’s annual report seems a moment to reflect on the deadly seriousness of a judicial officer’s task.

As always, this year’s report contains sobering statistics on the numbers of people around the world awaiting execution or who have already suffered the death penalty.

Kenyan court rules presidential power to hold under-age offenders in prison indefinitely is unconstitutional, orders prisoner released at once

A Kenyan high court has declared that rights given to the head of government to detain certain convicted prisoners ‘at the pleasure of the president’ are unconstitutional. This is because the court found these powers usurp the power of the courts. But the case was not just a theoretical exercise; it concerned a very real matter in which a prisoner, convicted of a crime that attracted the death penalty at the time, was sentenced to jail ‘at the pleasure of the president’ because he was under age. That was well over 16 years ago.

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Known only by his initials, JMR, the man at the centre of this case, had been virtually forgotten as he languished in prison for an indefinite term.

Then he brought a challenge to the unthinkable situation in which he found himself.


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