Supreme court rules mandatory death sentence as unconstitutional

Supreme Court judges . PHOTO/FILE.

Nairobi, KENYA: Supreme Court of Kenya (SCOK) has declared Section 204 of the Penal Code that demands death sentence as unconstitutional.

The court made the ruling on Thursday after a petition filed by two death row convicts Francis Murwatetu and Wilson Thrombus who have been in jail for the last 14 years asked the apex court to scrap mandatory death penalty from the Kenyan law.

According to Justice Njoki Ndung’u the section is out of sync and cannot stand as it is inconsistent with the constitution.

This means that the two petitioners will be back to the High Court for another hearing on sentence on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court judges further directed the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecution and other agencies to prepare a detailed professional review of cases regarding sentencing.

They ordered that the judgment is placed before the National Assembly speaker for necessary amendments to the law.

The Supreme Court also ruled that any court dealing with capital offenses should be allowed to use judicial discretion when delivering judgments.

On July 30, the Court of Appeal unanimously held that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional as they violate the right to life and inflicts inhuman punishment.

It also said that holding a person on death row for more than three years is unconstitutional.

As of December 2010, 139 countries out of 197 under the UN had already abolished the death penalty in law or practice.