Tanzania is reportedly considering outlawing the death penalty. The minister for justice Mary Nagu said a commission has been set up to collect views of Tanzanian’s on the death penalty. Sources say the government has come under increasing pressure from human right groups to abolish the death penalty, which dates back to the colonial period. Under Tanzania laws, murder and high treason are the only offences punishable by a death sentence.
From the capital Dodoma, justice minister Mary Nagu told VOA that Tanzanians are being called upon to participate in the discussion whether to abolish the death penalty or not.
“As you know, Tanzania is a signatory to various international conventions and it has ratified some; this includes African Charter on human and People’s Rights and the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. We believe strongly in human rights, and my country is reputed for that. So in relation to that we have entrusted our law reform commission to collect views and opinions from the people and as much as possible with the view to looking into the death penalty. And you know the death penalty is against the human rights,” he said.
Nagu said the Tanzanian government would not want to abolish the death penalty without the consent of the ordinary people.
“The government would not want to take action by itself. It wants to get the view and opinions from the people. I do believe Tanzanians do believe in human rights as well,” she pointed out.
She said the government would largely base its decision on the response from Tanzanians.
“The sooner we have collected the views, I’m sure we would be in a better position to make a decision. But I’m very optimistic that our decision to change the death penalty would be in line with these conventions that we have signed…we are not an island, we live among other countries and we are part of the world. But I think the most important part of it is for us to bring this positive change. And we would want our people to participate in that change, ” she said.
Nagu said the challenge the government faces is replacing the death penalty with an appropriate punitive action.
“The difficulty right now is to have an alternative penalty that is going to be effective. But I want to assure you that Tanzanians are very respectful of human rights…it may not take long because our law commission is already obliged and they are collecting the views. And it wont taker long before they bring me the results of the opinions that they are collecting from the country,” Nagu noted.
She said although the government would want to emulate examples set by countries that have repealed the death penalty, conditions differ from country to country.
“We don’t mind following suit, but each country has its own conditions and environment, and whatever decision that would be taken, will be taken in cognizant of our own conditions that exist tight now. But I want to assure you that most Tanzanians are respectful of human rights and we do believe in good governance,” Nagu said.