Kenya’s Supreme Court declares mandatory death sentence unconstitutional

Kenya’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared mandatory death sentence unconstitutional, and directed the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to form a committee that will formulate guidelines for the re-sentencing of those on death row.

The court however stipulated that the ruling does not affect the validity of the death sentence.

“The mandatory nature of the death sentence as provided under section 204 of the penal code is hereby declared unconstitutional. For the avoidance of doubt, this order does not disturb the validity of the death sentence as contemplated under article 26(3) of our constitution,” reads a section of the ruling.

The case had been filed by two inmates who have been in jail for 14 years. They asked the court to scrap the mandatory death penalty from the Kenyan law.

According to the United Nations, some 170 States around the world have either abolished the death penalty and put a moratorium on its use – most recently, Gambia and Madagascar – and executions in 2016 were down 37 per cent compared in 2015.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in October called on all countries which have not forbidden the extreme practice to urgently stop executions.

Though the death sentence has not been entirely abolished by the Kenyan court, Lawyer Fred Ngatia, who was representing one of the petitioners, termed it as “a big judgment.”