Zambia’s plan to abolish the death penalty adds to the growing global chorus against the practice, the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, said on Friday in welcoming the decision. 

President Hakainde Hichilema announced the development on Tuesday in a speech on the eve of Africa Day, according to media reports. 

“We warmly welcome the Zambian President’s pledge on 24 May to abolish the death penalty in the country and work with Parliament to end this cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment,” said OHCHR Spokesperson Seif Magango. 

“Use of the death penalty is incompatible with fundamental human rights and dignity,” he added. 

A major step forward 

While Zambia has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment since 1997, when executions last took place, Mr. Magango said that formal abolition in law would be a major step forward for human rights in the country. 

Zambia would also join the growing consensus worldwide for universal abolition of the death penalty.  Some 170 countries have abolished it, or introduced a moratorium, either in law or in practice.  

OHCHR called on the Government and Parliament to bolster the President’s pledge with tangible legal reforms, including amending the Penal Code Act and the Criminal Procedure Code Act. 

Assistance and cooperation 

Additionally, the authorities should re-launch the Constitutional Reform process to expand the Bill of Rights, including with explicit prohibition of the death penalty.  

The Government was also urged to demonstrate further international leadership on the issue by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on abolition of the death penalty.

 Mr. Magagno said OHCHR “stands ready to provide technical assistance and cooperation to the Zambian authorities to make this promise a reality.”