The Constitutional Court has ruled that inmates sentenced to life in prison must be considered for presidential pardon. The landmark judgment was made by Justice Bharat Patel sitting with eight other judges of the Constitutional Court yesterday, who declared it unconstitutional to sentence convicted murderers to life without any hope for parole or release on licence.The challenge was filed by Obediah Makoni through his lawyer Mr Tendai Biti. Makoni who was convicted and slapped with life imprisonment for killing his girlfriend in 1995 had served 21 years and sought immediate release.
The court did not however, grant the order for release but prescribed a parole board of inquiry into his suitability for release before recommendations were forwarded to the minister in terms of the law.
Biti described the judgement as revolutionary,
"This is yet another revolutionary judgment. I am just humbled to be part of this historic legal process yet again."
You can read the judgement below.
“It is declared that:
1. “A life sentence imposed on a convicted prisoner without the possibility of parole or release on licence constitutes a violation of human dignity and amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in breach of Sections 51 and 53 of the of the Constitution.
2. “The provisions of Part XX of the Prisons Act to the extent that they exclude prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for life from parole or release on licence process, contravene the right to equal protection and benefit of the law under Section 56(1) of the Constitution.
3. “Subject to paragraph 4 below, the further incarceration of the applicant amounts to a breach of his right to human dignity, right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and right to equal protection and benefit of the law under Sections 51, 53 and 56(1) of the Constitution.
4. “Pending the enactment of the legislation amending the provisions of Part XX of the Prisons Act, so as to conform with the right to equal protection and benefit of the law under Section 56(1) of the Constitution, the respondents shall apply those provisions, mutatis mutandis, to every prisoner sentenced to imprisonment for life, including the applicant.”
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