NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan – There are over 600 inmates in Kenya who are on death row according to a report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Right (KNCHR).
The report dubbed “living with a death sentence in Kenya: prisoners experience of crime, punishment and death row,” launched on Tuesday, states that many more prisoners have been sentenced to death in the past decades but have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
It revealed that the majority of those sentenced to death (56 per cent) were convicted of robbery with violence with 44 per cent of murder.
According to Roseline Odede, chair of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, the demand to collaborate with regional and international human rights commissions is intended to mount a ferocious campaign for the elimination of the death sentence in Kenya.
“This call is guided by a number of reasons from a human rights perspective that death penalty is contrary to human rights, the right to life is a fundamental right enshrined in several human rights instruments, death penalty is not a deterrent and it’s irreversible,” she said.
According to the report, the majority of people serving time for murder had just completed primary school, and more than one in ten had never had any kind of formal education.
“Fifteen per cent reported that they had been experiencing mental health problems, higher than the national average,” the report stated.
Only one in ten people, according to the report, had a full-time job that was permanent.
“Some 79 per cent of participants were in the two lowest categories of social stratification: ‘semi-routine’ or ‘routine’ occupations,” it added. “Their average wage was below the Kenyan minimum wage.”
According to the survey, 89% of convicts were in charge of providing for dependents.
“More than one-third were in debt. Almost half (43 per cent) said that they had been relying on alcohol and almost one-third had a history of alcohol or substance misuse, higher rates than the national average,” the study revealed.
Kenya is one of 22 African countries that still has the death sentence in its laws, despite the fact that it hasn’t carried out any executions in more than three decades.
Currently, 120 countries throughout the world, including 25 in Africa, have abolished the death penalty.
As a result, Kenya is categorized by the United Nations as being “abolitionist de facto,” which refers to a nation that has not carried out an execution in at least 10 years.
“As long as the death penalty is retained in law, there remains a risk that executions might resume if there is political change. Moreover, the plight and turmoil of those languishing on death row – consistently the poorest and most vulnerable – cannot be ignored,” the report states.
“They are disproportionately sentenced to death and suffer the harshest punishments and treatment.”
The report was compiled following a study commissioned by the University of Oxford Death Penalty Research Unit.
The study was conducted on a sample of 671 prisoners across 12 Kenyan prisons, and it included not only those currently under sentence of death but also those previously sentenced to death who later had their sentence commuted.