Death Penalty Database

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Zimbabwe

Information current as of: October 2, 2019

General

Official Country Name

Republic of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe). [1]

Geographical Region

Africa (Eastern Africa). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging. [4]

References

[1] BBC News, Zimbabwe country profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14113249, Jan 14, 2019.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, https://unstats.un.org/unsd/methodology/m49/, last accessed on Oct. 2, 2019.
[3] Mai Sato, The Conversation, 12 Years Without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for Abolition?, https://theconversation.com/12-years-without-an-execution-is-zimbabwe-ready-to-abolish-the-death-penalty-96954, May 22, 2018.
[4] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 339(2), Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.

Country Details

Language(s)

Shona, Sindebele, English. [1]

Population

16.5 million (2018 est.) [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

At least 81.

At the end of 2018, there were at least 81 people on death row in Zimbabwe. [3] In March 2018, President Emerson Mnangagwa commuted the death sentences for those that had been on death row for more than 10 years, benefiting at least 16 people. [4]

(This question was last updated on June 5, 2019.)

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2020 to date (last updated on June 3, 2020)

0. [5]

Executions in 2019

0. [6]

Executions in 2018

0. [7]

Executions in 2017

0. [8]

Executions in 2016

0. [9]

Executions in 2015

0. [10]

Executions in 2014

0. [11]

Executions in 2013

0. [12]

Executions in 2012

0. [13]

Executions in 2011

0. [14]

Executions in 2010

0. [15]

Executions in 2009

0. [16]

Executions in 2008

0. [17]

Executions in 2007

0. [18]

Year of Last Known Execution

Zimbabwe’s last execution was on July 22, 2005. [19]

References

[1] BBC News, Zimbabwe country profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14113249, Jan. 14, 2019.
[2] BBC News, Zimbabwe country profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14113249, Jan 14, 2019.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2018, p. 40, ACT 50/9870/2019, Apr. 10, 2019.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2018, p. 45, ACT 50/9870/2019, Apr. 10, 2019.
[5] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[6] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[7] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2018, p. 40, ACT 50/9870/2019, Apr. 10, 2019.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2017, p. 35, ACT 50/7955/2018, Apr. 12, 2018.
[9] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[10] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2012/en, Mar. 27, 2012.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, p. 8, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[18] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[19] Nathan Majuru and Vimbai N Tavaziva, The death penalty in Zimbabwe, https://lawhubzim.org/the-death-penalty-in-zimbabwe/, May 7, 2017.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
The 2013 Constitution explicitly limited the imposition of the death penalty to aggravated murder. [1]

Zimbabwe defines murder as the intentional killing of another person or causing death by knowingly engaging in conduct that creates a real risk or possibility of death. [2] The General Laws Amendment Act 2016 revised the definition of aggravated murder to include an extensive, but non-exhaustive, list of aggravating circumstances. These aggravating circumstances include insurgency, banditry, sabotage, terrorism, rape or sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, hijacking, piracy, escaping from legal custody, unlawful entry into a dwelling house, and arson. [3] Other aggravating circumstances are multiple murders, physical torture, mutilation of the victim, and murder in a public space that causes substantial risk of injury to bystanders. [4]

Further, in the absence of mitigating circumstances, or together with other circumstances of an aggravating nature, a court may also regard the following acts as aggravating circumstances: premeditated murder, murder of a police officer, a prison officer, a minor, a pregnant woman, a person over 70 years of age, or a person with physical disabilities. [5]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
The General Laws Amendment Act 2016 states that principals (or persons having authority over an actual perpetrator of the crime) and co-perpetrators (or persons who commit a crime in association with another person or persons) convicted of murder can receive a death sentence where murder is committed in aggravating circumstances. [6]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
Capital punishment may be imposed if a terrorist act results in death, under the definition of aggravated murder in the General Laws Amendment Act 2016. [7]

Treason.
Treason causing death may be punished with death under the definition of aggravated murder in the General Laws Amendment Act 2016. [8]

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. Courts may only impose the death penalty on a person convicted of murder in aggravating circumstances and courts must have discretion whether or not to impose the penalty. [9]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

None. [10]

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

None. The last execution was in 2005, when Mandlekosi Never Masina Mandla was executed for murder. [11]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
The 2013 Zimbabwean Constitution prohibits the execution of individuals who were under 21 when the offense was committed. [12]

Women.
The 2013 Zimbabwean Constitution includes a prohibition on imposing or carrying out the death penalty on women. [13]

Intellectually Disabled.
An accused cannot be held criminally liable if he suffered from a mental disorder or defect that: made him incapable of understanding the nature of his conduct; incapable of understanding whether his conduct was lawful or not, or both; unable to act in accordance with such an understanding; or incapable of acting in accordance with his knowledge. [14]

If at the time of the offence the accused has diminished capacity due to a mental disorder or defect, it can be considered as a mitigating circumstance that diminishes the accused’s responsibility; it cannot, however, be used as a defence. [15]

The law does not explicitly prohibit the execution of individuals who are intellectually disabled. [16] Evidence of intellectual disability is not frequently used in mitigation. [17]

Mentally Ill.
An accused cannot be held criminally liable if he suffered from a mental disorder or defect that: made him incapable of understanding the nature of his conduct; incapable of understanding whether his conduct was lawful or not, or both; unable to act in accordance with such an understanding; or incapable of acting in accordance with his knowledge. [18]

If at the time of the offense the accused has diminished capacity due to a mental disorder or defect, it can be considered as a mitigating circumstance that diminishes the accused’s responsibility; it cannot, however, be used as a defense. [19] Attorneys report that evidence of mental illness is not frequently used in mitigation. [20]

As of 2017, attorneys report that it is routine to use psychologists to report on their clients’ fitness to stand trial. [21] Many courts consider mental illness to mean visibly apparent insanity, not conditions such as hysteria or psychosis, and courts may require a certificate from a government psychiatrist. [22] In addition, attorneys report that detrimental stigma associated with mental illness in Zimbabwe means that some Zimbabweans consider mental illness to be an indication of guilt. [23]

Elderly.
The Constitution forbids the imposition of the death penalty on those over the age of 70. [24]

References

[1] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48, May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[2] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47(1), Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016.
[3] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Sections 47(2)–(3) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 were amended by sections 8(2)(a) and 8(5) of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the definition of aggravated murder.
[4] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Sections 47(2)–(3) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 were amended by sections 8(2)(b)–(d) of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the definition of aggravated murder.
[5] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Sections 47(2)–(3) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 were amended by section 8(3) of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the definition of aggravated murder.
[6] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 196, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Section 196 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 was amended by section 22 of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the liability of principals and co-perpetrators.
[7] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Sections 47(2)–(3) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 were amended by section 8(2)(a)(i) of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the definition of aggravated murder.
[8] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 47, Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016. Sections 47(2)–(3) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, 2005 were amended by section 8(2)(a)(i) of Part XX of the General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 to revise the definition of aggravated murder.
[9] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[10] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(a), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[11] Nathan Majuru and Vimbai N Tavaziva, The death penalty in Zimbabwe, https://lawhubzim.org/the-death-penalty-in-zimbabwe/, May 7, 2017.
[12] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(c)(i), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[13] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(d), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[14] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 227(1), Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005 as updated through to 2016.
[15] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 218(1), Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016.
[16] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 17, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[17] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 17, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[18] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 227(1), Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016.
[19] Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 218(1), Ch. 9:23, Jun. 3, 2005, as updated through to 2016.
[20] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 17, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[21] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 3, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[22] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 3, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[23] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 3, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[24] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(c)(ii), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

May 13, 1991. [2]

Signed?

No. [3]

Date of Signature

NA [4]

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

No. [5]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [6]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [7]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [8]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Yes. [9]

Date of Accession

May 30, 1986. [10]

Signed?

Yes. [11]

Date of Signature

Feb. 20, 1986. [12]

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Yes. [13]

Date of Accession

Apr. 15, 2008. [14]

Signed?

Yes. [15]

Date of Signature

Nov. 18, 2003. [16]

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Yes. [17]

Date of Accession

Jan. 19, 1995. [18]

Signed?

No. [19]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable. Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable. Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

2018 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [20]

Vote

Against. [21]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [22]

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [23]

Vote

Abstained. [24]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [25]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [26]

Vote

Against. [27]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [28]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [29]

Vote

Against. [30]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [31]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [32]

Vote

Against. [33]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [34]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [35]

Vote

Against. [36]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [37]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [38]

Vote

Against. [39]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [40]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[9] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=49, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[10] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=49, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[11] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=49, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[12] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=49, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[13] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/37077-sl-PROTOCOL%20TO%20THE%20AFRICAN%20CHARTER%20ON%20HUMAN%20AND%20PEOPLE%27S%20RIGHTS%20ON%20THE%20RIGHTS%20OF%20WOMEN%20IN%20AFRICA.pdf, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[14] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/37077-sl-PROTOCOL%20TO%20THE%20AFRICAN%20CHARTER%20ON%20HUMAN%20AND%20PEOPLE%27S%20RIGHTS%20ON%20THE%20RIGHTS%20OF%20WOMEN%20IN%20AFRICA.pdf, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[15] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/37077-sl-PROTOCOL%20TO%20THE%20AFRICAN%20CHARTER%20ON%20HUMAN%20AND%20PEOPLE%27S%20RIGHTS%20ON%20THE%20RIGHTS%20OF%20WOMEN%20IN%20AFRICA.pdf, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[16] African Commn. on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/37077-sl-PROTOCOL%20TO%20THE%20AFRICAN%20CHARTER%20ON%20HUMAN%20AND%20PEOPLE%27S%20RIGHTS%20ON%20THE%20RIGHTS%20OF%20WOMEN%20IN%20AFRICA.pdf, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[17] African Commn. on the Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=46, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[18] African Commn. on the Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=46, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[19] African Commn. on the Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ratification Table: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, https://www.achpr.org/ratificationtable?id=46, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[20] U.N.G.A. 73rd session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, para. 135, U.N. Doc. A/73/589/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2018.
[21] U.N.G.A. 73rd session, 55th plenary meeting, p. 32, U.N. Doc. A/73/PV.55, Dec. 17, 2018.
[22] U.N.G.A., Note Verbale dated 13 September 2019, U.N. Doc. A/73/1004, Sep. 16, 2019.
[23] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[24] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54–71, U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016. This was the first time Zimbabwe abstained from voting for a resolution on a global moratorium, as opposed to voting against. Mai Sato, 12 Years without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for Abolition? A survey of public attitudes towards the death penalty, p. 13, The Death Penalty Project, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/12-Years-Report.pdf, Apr. 2018.
[25] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[26] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[27] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17–18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[28] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[29] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95–96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[30] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16–17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[31] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[32] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[33] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[34] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[35] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[36] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[37] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[38] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, pp. 3-4, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[39] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16- 17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[40] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

Yes. After stating that every person has the right to life, the Zimbabwean Constitution states that the death penalty may be imposed “only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances” and only in accordance with a final judgment of a competent court. [1] The Constitution forbids the imposition of a mandatory death sentence, stipulating that capital punishment may only be imposed if the court had judicial discretion on whether to impose the death penalty. [2] The Constitution forbids the imposition of the death penalty on a person under 21 at the time of the offense’s commission, on a person more than 70 years old, and on any woman. [3] A person sentenced to death must have a right to seek pardon or commutation of the death penalty from the President. [4]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

Yes. According to the Constitution, respect for international law is one of the principles on which the foreign policy of Zimbabwe is based. [5] The Constitution requires the government to incorporate all international conventions, treaties, and agreements to which Zimbabwe is a party into domestic law. [6] Further, all courts, tribunals, forums, or bodies must take into account international law and all treaties and conventions to which Zimbabwe is a party and may consider relevant foreign law. [7] The Constitution obliges the judiciary to be guided by the principle that “the role of courts is paramount in safeguarding human rights and freedoms and the rule of law.”

The Constitution articulates that any conventions, treaties, or agreements with foreign governments or international organizations that the President enters into do not form part of Zimbabwe’s laws unless incorporated into law by an Act of Parliament. [8] The Constitution considers customary international law as part of the law of Zimbabwe, unless inconsistent with the Constitution or an Act of Parliament. [9] Courts and tribunals are obligated to interpret domestic legislation in a way that is consistent with customary international law and treaty law. [10] Further, members of judiciary must take reasonable steps to keep up with developments in international law. [11]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

Zimbabwe’s use of the death penalty is characterized by relatively long execution-free periods and restrictions to the categories of offenders eligible for the death penalty. Zimbabwe has not carried out any executions since 2005. [12]

The adoption of the 2013 Constitution and the subsequent 2017 political transition ousting long-term President Robert Mugabe has led to a number of developments. [13] The 2013 Constitution restricts the imposition of the death penalty to aggravated murder and prohibits the application the death penalty to those under 21 at the time of the offense’s commission, anyone over 70, and all women. [14]

Former Justice Minister and current President Emerson Mnangagwa assured the public in 2013 that the country would not return to carrying out executions. [15] Mnangagwa stated that “there is no doubt as to the direction the country is taking with regard to this form of punishment” and that the new constitutional limitations on the application of the death penalty represent “a positive development in efforts to eventually remove the death penalty from our Criminal justice systems.” [16] In 2018, President Mnangagwa commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment, [17] and the media states that female inmates were released, though the number of women released who were on death row is not clear. [18]

As a former prisoner condemned to death and released only by virtue of his juvenility, President Mnangagwa has opposed the death penalty. [19] He has stated that, “The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is contrary to the right to life.” [20]

Despite Zimbabwe progressively limiting the scope of the death penalty, official moratorium, and commutations of death sentences, it routinely votes against the United Nations Resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and signs the Note Verbale of Disassociation. [21] Further, Zimbabwe was accepting applications for the vacant hangman position in 2017. [22] This appears to be a blip in Zimbabwe’s steady movement toward abolition. In November 2018, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said that Zimbabwe is implementing a legal and policy framework with an abolitionist stance. [23] Minister Ziyambi further stated that he would soon propose full abolition to the Zimbabwean Cabinet, that he would not authorize the execution of death row prisoners, and that he would instead propose commutation of sentences to life imprisonment. [24]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

Yes. In November 2018, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi stated that he would not authorize the execution of death row prisoners, proposing instead that the Zimbabwean Cabinet commute sentences to life imprisonment. [25] He further stated that he would soon propose full abolition of the death penalty to the Cabinet. [26]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

In 1993, the Supreme Court considered the appeal of four prisoners who had been on death row for an extended period. [27] The Court found that prison guards intentionally subjected death row prisoners to mental anguish constituting torture and also found that lengthy stays on death row led to “death row phenomenon,” constituting inhuman or degrading punishment. [28] On the basis that extended stays on death row thus violated Zimbabwe’s constitutional protections against inhuman or degrading punishment, the Court commuted their sentences to life imprisonment. [29] As a result of this case, at least 28 other death row inmates also had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. [30] In response, the government passed the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 13) Act of 1993, which explicitly stated that delays in carrying out the death penalty did not render capital punishment unconstitutional. [31]

In S v. Ndzombane, the Supreme Court partially overturned the trial decision imposing the death penalty for a conviction of murder with actual intent. [32] The Court admonished the trial court’s “uncritical” acceptance of a psychiatric report that concluded that the defendant was free of psychotic symptoms, despite prior head injury and the possibility of a diminished responsibility. [33] Although the conviction of murder with intent was upheld, the death sentence was commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment due to the possibility of extenuating circumstances on the grounds of diminished responsibility. [34]

In Chawira & 13 Others v. Minister of Justice Legal & Parliamentary Affairs & Others, the Constitutional Court dismissed the application of 15 petitioners challenging the constitutionality of their alleged lengthy detention in “inhuman and degrading prison conditions.” [35] In rejecting the application, the Court found the issue unripe for review, since many of the petitioners had not yet exhausted all remedies. [36]

The petitioner in Dolosi v. Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & the Attorney General of Zimbabwe alleged that he was sentenced under the outdated Criminal Code after the promulgation of the 2013 Constitution. [37] As of 2017, this case is still pending review. [38]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

The Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) hosts a database containing some judicial decisions from the Supreme Court, Bulawayo High Court, and Harare High Court at: http://www.saflii.org/cgi-bin/search.pl.

The Zimbabwe Legal Information Institute Website, a project of SAFLII, also includes a large selection of case law, legislation, and journals on their website: https://www.zimlii.org/.

Veritas Zimbabwe (http://veritaszim.net/) retains some older decisions.

Cases and precedents in Zimbabwe are compiled yearly in print in “The Law Reports of Zimbabwe,” which were published by the Legal Resources Foundation, a non-profit that works with the Ministry of Justice. The Law Reports generally include prominent cases that consider important legal questions, and usually include cases from the Supreme Court or High Court. The Law Reports were last published in 2016.

AfricanLII is also compiling a database of case law throughout Africa and can be accessed here: https://www.africanlii.org/caseindex.

What is the clemency process?

Defendants have an automatic right to petition for pardon or commutation of a death sentence, and the Constitution gives the president the “power of mercy” to grant clemency after consultation with the Cabinet. [39] Attorneys state that inmates are granted three chances to petition for clemency. [40] Attorneys also report that the process is not transparent, as the president’s answers to prisoners’ letters of petition do not state a reason for denial. [41]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

No. However, at trial the judge is assisted by two assessors who weigh issues of fact. [42] Assessors tend to be retired civil servants and are appointed by the Minister of Justice. [43] There are only about ten assessors in total. [44]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

In the High Court, one judge sits on the bench in capital cases, and three judges hear capital cases at the Supreme Court. [45] Capital cases carry an automatic right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal, except for the Constitutional Court, which hears constitutional matters. [46] Generally, appeals are on matters of law, and any evidence that needs clarification is referred to the trial judge. [47] Nevertheless, the Supreme Court may allow new evidence if it is determined to be “necessary or expedient in the interests of justice.” [48] Individuals must first exhaust all legal remedies by way of appeal or review before the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs may refer the case to the Supreme Court. [49]

If all legal remedies have been exhausted, and if the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs believes that there is further evidence that could lead to a change in the conviction or the sentence, the Minister may refer the entire case or a particular point within the case to the Supreme Court for consideration. [50] If the entire case is referred, then it will be treated as a fresh appeal in the Supreme Court. [51] There is no appeal, review, or other proceedings if the Minister refuses referral, or on the proceedings or deliberations taken by the Supreme Court. [52] If a constitutional issue is raised, petitioners may also pursue their case at the Constitutional Court. [53] An appeal is lodged by application to a judge for leave to appeal and then by filing the application for appeal with the registrar. [54]

Once a death sentence is confirmed by the High Court, it must be referred to the President for approval. [55]

References

[1] Constitution of Zimbabwe, arts. 48(1), 48(2), 48(2)(b), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[2] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(a), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[3] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(c), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[4] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(e), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[5] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 12, May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[6] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 34, May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[7] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 46(1), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[8] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 327(2), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[9] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 326(1), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[10] Constitution of Zimbabwe, arts. 326, 327(6), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[11] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 165, May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Zimbabwe: End the death penalty after 10-year execution hiatus, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/07/zimbabwe-end-the-death-penalty-after-10-year-execution-hiatus, Jul. 22, 2015.
[13] Norimitsu Onishi & Jeffrey Moyo, Robert Mugabe Resigns as Zimbabwe’s President, Ending 37-Year Rule, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/world/africa/zimbabwe-mugabe-mnangagwa.html, Nov. 21, 2017. Roger Hood & Carolyn Hoyle, The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, p. 94, Oxford University Press, 5th Edition, 2015.
[14] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 48(2)(c), 48(2)(d), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[15] The Herald, Cabinet to decide on inmates on death row, https://www.herald.co.zw/cabinet-to-decide-on-inmates-on-death-row/, Feb. 12, 2013.
[16] Amnesty Intl., An Action on the Death Penalty in Zimbabwe, p. 1, https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/zimbabwe_january_2014_.doc, Jan. 2014.
[17] James Thompson, Mnangagwa grants reprieve for death row inmates, Times Live, https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2018-03-22-mnangagwa-grants-reprieve-for-death-row-inmates/, Mar. 22, 2018.
[18] Nyemudzai Kakore, UPDATED: 87 female inmates released, The Herald, https://www.herald.co.zw/just-in-87-chikurubi-female-prisoners-released/, Mar. 23, 2018.
[19] Newsday, Mnangagwa rekindles call for abolition of death penalty, https://www.newsday.co.zw/2016/09/mnangagwa-rekindles-call-abolition-death-penalty/, Sep. 16, 2016. Mai Sato, 12 Years without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for Abolition? A survey of public attitudes towards the death penalty, p. 37, The Death Penalty Project, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/12-Years-Report.pdf, Apr. 2018.
[20] Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban, Zimbabwe president ‘wholeheartedly’ against death penalty, Africanews, http://www.africanews.com/2018/10/11/zimbabwe-president-wholeheartedly-against-death-penalty/, Oct. 11, 2018.
[21] See Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide database question on Zimbabwe’s Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution 2007–2018.
[22] Newsday, 50 apply for hangman’s post, https://www.newsday.co.zw/2017/10/50-apply-hangmans-post/, Oct. 7, 2017.
[23] Auxilia Katongomara, Zimbabwe working on abolishing death penalty, http://nehandaradio.com/2018/11/29/zimbabwe-working-on-abolishing-death-penalty/, Nehanda Radio, Nov. 29, 2018.
[24] Auxilia Katongomara, Zimbabwe working on abolishing death penalty, http://nehandaradio.com/2018/11/29/zimbabwe-working-on-abolishing-death-penalty/, Nehanda Radio, Nov. 29, 2018.
[25] Auxilia Katongomara, Zimbabwe working on abolishing death penalty, http://nehandaradio.com/2018/11/29/zimbabwe-working-on-abolishing-death-penalty/, Nehanda Radio, Nov. 29, 2018.
[26] Auxilia Katongomara, Zimbabwe working on abolishing death penalty, http://nehandaradio.com/2018/11/29/zimbabwe-working-on-abolishing-death-penalty/, Nehanda Radio, Nov. 29, 2018.
[27] The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace v. Attorney General of Zimbabwe and Others, paras. 1, 3, Supreme Ct., May 20–21, 1993.
[28] The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace v. Attorney General of Zimbabwe and Others, paras. 106, 120, Supreme Ct., 1993.
[29] The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace v. Attorney General of Zimbabwe and Others, para. 130, Supreme Ct., 1993.
[30] Obert Chaurura Gutu, Zimbabwe: Death Penalty – a Panacea to Serious and Violent Crime? AllAfrica.com, http://allafrica.com/stories/200705300992.html, May 30, 2007.
[31] Charles M. Fombad, Separation of Powers in African Constitutionalism, n. 86, Oxford University Press, 2016. Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 13) Act of 1993, sec. 15(5), Nov. 5, 1993.
[32] Ndzombane v. State, 240/13, Criminal Appeal No. SC 240/13, Jul. 28 and 30, 2014.
[33] Ndzombane v. State, 240/13, pp. 4–9, Criminal Appeal No. SC 240/13, Supreme Ct., Jul. 28 and 30, 2014.
[34] Ndzombane v. State, 240/13, p. 10, Criminal Appeal No. SC 240/13, Supreme Ct., Jul. 28 and 30, 2014.
[35] Chawira & 13 Others v. Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & Others, pp. 7–8, Const. Application No. CCZ 47/15, Const. Application No. CCZ 50/15, Supreme Ct., Jan. 13, 2016 and Mar. 20, 2017.
[36] Chawira & 13 Others v. Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & Others, pp. 7–8, Const. Application No. CCZ 47/15, Const. Application No. CCZ 50/15, Supreme Ct., Jan. 13, 2016 and Mar. 20, 2017.
[37] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 16, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[38] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 16, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[39] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 112, May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[40] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[41] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017. The President is also authorized to grant a pardon prior to conviction. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, n. 17, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[42] Zimbabwe High Court Act, Part II, sec. 6, Ch. 7:06, 1981. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 8–9, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[43] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 8–9, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[44] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 8–9, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[45] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 9, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[46] Howard Chitimira, A Conspectus of the Functions of the Judiciary under the Zimbabwe Constitution 2013, p. 230, African Journal of International and Comparative Law, 2017. Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 9, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[47] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[48] Supreme Court Act, sec. 17, Ch. 7:13, 1981, as updated through to 1997.
[49] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 379, Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.
[50] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 379, Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.
[51] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 379, Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.
[52] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 379(4), Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.
[53] Zimbabwe Constitutional Court Rules, Statutory Instrument 61 of 2016, Part V, Rule 32, 2016. Howard Chitimira, A Conspectus of the Functions of the Judiciary under the Zimbabwe Constitution 2013, p. 230, African Journal of International and Comparative Law, 2017.
[54] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 10, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[55] Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of Zimbabwe, sec. 340, Ch. 9:07, Jun. 1, 1927, as updated through to Jun. 10, 2016.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

Death-sentenced prisoners are incarcerated in Harare Central Prison or Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. [1]

Description of Prison Conditions

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, the entity responsible for maintaining prisons, is grossly underfunded by the government. [2] This has led to brutal prison conditions nationwide: prisoners suffer from overcrowding, dilapidated buildings, poor sanitary and hygiene conditions, and small living spaces. [3] Despite having capacity for 17,000 prisoners, in 2018 Zimbabwe prisons housed over 20,000 people. [4] Due to systematic overcrowding, numerous sources report that prison conditions are harsh and sometimes life threatening. [5] Prisons do not provide sufficient food, water, electricity, clothing, and soap, and many prisoners are malnourished. [6] Facilities have poor sanitary conditions and insufficient medical care, leading to the spread of disease. [7]

Generally, women’s sections in prisons are relatively better than men’s, though conditions are still very poor. [8] Women sometimes have children in prison—while prisons are supposed to have schooling and play centers for children, staff shortages and inattention to children’s needs mean these are not always available. [9] Women’s health is severely impacted by practices such as requiring children to share their mother’s food rations and failing to increase food rations or provide additional care for pregnant women and nursing mothers. [10] Women have to rely on outside organization for sanitary pads. [11]

In 2015, more than 900 prisoners rioted in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison to protest the poor living conditions. Five prisoners were killed by prison guards. [12] In 2016, a prisoner was reportedly beaten by prison guards for protesting prison conditions with other women. [13] In 2017, prisoners’ complaints about prison conditions reached the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, alleging inhuman and degrading conditions on death row. [14]

To alleviate these circumstances, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services has solicited donations from organizations and private individuals, and in 2018 President Emerson Mnangagwa granted amnesty to all women except for those serving life sentences—it is unclear if this also impacted women on death row. [15] President Robert Mugabe’s May 2016 pardon of prisoners extended to women who were not on death row or sentenced to life imprisonment. [16] These presidential pardons are expected to ease the severity of overcrowding. [17]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

It is not known whether any foreign nationals are on death row after the mass commutation on March 22, 2018. [18]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

It is not known whether any foreign nationals are on death row after the mass commutation on March 22, 2018. [19]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

Possibly two. In October 2018, Prisons Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources Fadzayi Mupure reported that two women might be on death row, but this was not certain. [20]

(This question was updated on November 16, 2018).

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

Under Zimbabwean law, persons who were under 18 at the time of the crime may not be sentenced to death. [21] No reports indicate that any individuals who were under 18 at the time of the crime are currently on death row. [22]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

None.

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

Yes.

The Zimbabwean Constitution does not include an unqualified right to legal aid for indigent criminal defendants, stating that the state is obligated to provide an attorney only if “substantial injustice” would otherwise result. [23] The Legal Aid Act of 1996, however, states that anyone can apply for government legal aid, and that indigent individuals are eligible for legal aid. [24]

In practice, the government provides a state-appointed attorney for indigent defendants facing capital trials. [25] Indigent defendants are not assigned a lawyer until they receive a trial date from the High Court, meaning that attorneys are generally not available soon after arrest or during police questioning. [26] Indigent defendants usually only meet their lawyers right before trial. [27]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

The state is obligated to provide counsel if “substantial injustice” would result from lack of representation, [28] though there is no explicit right to an attorney for appeals. [29] In practice, if defendants are assigned an attorney on appeal, it will typically be the same overburdened legal aid lawyer. [30]

As of 2017, attorneys report that appeals in capital cases face great delays in receiving a judgment, in part because it is difficult for courts to find lawyers willing to represent these defendants. [31] Even if an attorney can be assigned to a case, they are often inexperienced, leading to a substandard quality of representation for capital defendants. [32]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

The quality of legal representation is generally poor, and some lawyers only meet with their clients briefly before trial. [33] Because legal aid is decentralized and subject to corruption by officials, services are extremely underfunded. [34] This has led to decreased accessibility to representation for indigent defendants. [35] Some private organizations provide legal aid in Zimbabwe. These organizations include the Legal Resources Foundation, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Msasa Project, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (Justice and Peace Department). [36]

Any licensed lawyer, including from the private bar, is eligible to be appointed to represent indigent clients by the court. [37] Because there is no experience requirement, and older and more established attorneys typically refuse these appointments, it is typically young and inexperienced attorneys assigned to these cases. [38] Private attorneys that take death penalty cases are paid less than USD$1 per day, amounting to less than 10% of what they would receive in private practice. [39] Further, public defenders and assigned counsel are not allocated the resources to hire experts and lack other resources, for example, for transportation costs. [40]

It has been reported that in political cases, prison authorities obstruct detainees’ access to their lawyers. [41] Lack of access to an advocate is particularly pernicious in these cases as political detainees may be subjected to torture. [42]

Evidence extracted through torture is inadmissible and if torture is proved, defendants are released. [43] Courts still admit coerced confessions, however, because attorneys do not commonly raise issues of torture even when signs of torture are apparent, and torture is not generally investigated or documented. [44] Lawyers representing human rights defenders have allegedly been tortured, and since January 2012, six people have died in police custody and at least 450 claims for damages have been filed against the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Defence Forces. [45]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

The 2013 Constitution provides that detainees must be charged within 24 hours of detention. Attorneys report that clients that were arrested without basis are released as soon as a challenge is raised. This provision has shifted the investigation tactics of police, who must now conduct investigations before making arrests. [46]

Political affiliations often affect the treatment of the accused; people may be arrested for crimes or granted amnesty on this basis. [47] Division between the Movement for Democratic Change party and the Zanu-PF, the party in power, may motivate some criminal prosecutions to repress political dissent, which may result in charges of death-eligible crimes such as treason. [48]

Individuals accused of death-eligible offences may apply for bail, but in practice it is rarely granted, though it is occasionally granted to affluent individuals. [49]

References

[1] Christopher Mahove, 117 inmates on death row in Zimbabwe, IOL, https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/117-inmates-on-death-row-in-zimbabwe-1970566, Jan. 13, 2016.
[2] Veneranda Langa, ZPCS struggles to feed prisoners, Newsday, https://www.newsday.co.zw/2017/11/zpcs-struggles-feed-prisoners/, Nov. 11, 2017. See Zimbabwe Human Rights Commn., Report on the Visit to Chikurubi Maximum Prison (Male Section) on the 18th of March 2015 (A Response to the Friday 13th of March 2015), http://www.zhrc.org.zw/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Chikurubi-Report.pdf, Mar. 18, 2015.
[3] Mai Sato, 12 Years without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for Abolition? A survey of public attitudes towards the death penalty, The Death Penalty Project, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/12-Years-Report.pdf, Apr. 2018.
[4] Al Jazeera, Zimbabwe's Emmerson Mnangagwa pardons 3,000 prisoners, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/zimbabwe-emmerson-mnangagwa-pardons-3000-prisoners-180321180313954.html, Mar. 21, 2018.
[5] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, pp. 8–11, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017. John Cassim, Zimbabwe prisons worse than hell, Anadolu Agency, https://aa.com.tr/en/africa/zimbabwe-prisons-worse-than-hell/666119, Oct. 16, 2016.
[6] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, p. 8, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017.
[7] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, pp. 8–11, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017. Farayi Machamire, Prisons in frantic bid to avert typhoid outbreak. Daily News, https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2017/01/20/prisons-in-frantic-bid-to-avert-typhoid-outbreak, Jan. 20, 2017.
[8] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, pp. 12–15, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017.
[9] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 1, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[10] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, pp. 12–15, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017.
[11] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 1, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[12] Tinotenda Samukange, Chikurubi riot death toll rises to 5, Newsday, https://www.newsday.co.zw/2015/03/chikurubi-riot-death-toll-rises-to-5/, Mar. 17, 2015.
[13] John Cassim, Zimbabwe prisons worse than hell, Anadolu Agency, https://aa.com.tr/en/africa/zimbabwe-prisons-worse-than-hell/666119, Oct. 16, 2016.
[14] Chawira & 13 Others v. Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & Others, p. 8, Const. Application No. CCZ 47/15, Const. Application No. CCZ 50/15, Supreme Ct., Jan. 13, 2016 and Mar. 20, 2017. The case was dismissed on procedural grounds.
[15] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, p. 12–13, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017. Al Jazeera, Zimbabwe's Emmerson Mnangagwa pardons 3,000 prisoners, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/zimbabwe-emmerson-mnangagwa-pardons-3000-prisoners-180321180313954.html, Mar. 21, 2018.
[16] U.K. Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Zimbabwe: Prison Conditions Version 2.0, p. 12, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/589d76684.pdf, Feb. 2017. Blessed Mhlanga, Mugabe empties female prisons, Newsday, https://www.newsday.co.zw/2016/05/mugabe-empties-female-prisons/, May 26, 2016.
[17] Al Jazeera, Zimbabwe's Emmerson Mnangagwa pardons 3,000 prisoners, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/zimbabwe-emmerson-mnangagwa-pardons-3000-prisoners-180321180313954.html, Mar. 21, 2018.
[18] James Thompson, Mnangagwa grants reprieve for death row inmates, Times Live, https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2018-03-22-mnangagwa-grants-reprieve-for-death-row-inmates/, Mar. 22, 2018.
[19] James Thompson, Mnangagwa grants reprieve for death row inmates, Times Live, https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2018-03-22-mnangagwa-grants-reprieve-for-death-row-inmates/, Mar. 22, 2018.
[20] Robert Tapfumaneyi, 81 death row inmates await execution in Zimbabwe, New Zimbabwe, https://www.newzimbabwe.com/81-death-row-inmates-await-execution-in-zimbabwe/, Oct. 17, 2018.
[21] John Dzvinamurungu, Amnesty International Zimbabwe Seminar on the Death Penalty: The Death Penalty is a Violation of Human Rights, Amnesty Intl., p. 7, www.kubatana.net/docs/hr/aizim_deathpenalty_040709.doc, Jul. 9, 2004. U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, p. 14, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/74/Add.3, Sep. 29, 1997. Zimbabwe Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Chapter 9:07, art. 338(a), Jun. 1, 1927. Zimbabwe Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23, ch. XIV, sec. 218(1), Act 23/2004, 2004.
[22] Alice Chimora, Zimbabwe Death Row Inmates Unsure of Fate, Afrik.com, http://en.afrik.com/article17126.html, Mar. 11, 2010.
[23] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 70(1)(e), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[24] Zimbabwe Legal Aid Act, sec. 7, Ch. 7:16, 1996.
[25] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 4, 6, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[26] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[27] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[28] Constitution of Zimbabwe, art. 70(1)(e), May 5, 2013, as updated through to Jan. 3, 2017.
[29] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[30] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[31] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[32] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[33] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 4, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[34] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/2, para. 48, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/26/ZWE/2, Aug. 25, 2016.
[35] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/2, para. 48, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/WG.6/26/ZWE/2, Aug. 25, 2016.
[36] Jimcall Pfumorodze & Emma Chitsove, The Law in Zimbabwe, NYU Globalex, http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Zimbabwe1.html#_Criminal_Court_Legal_Aid, Aug. 2017.
[37] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 7, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[38] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 5, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[39] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 7, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[40] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 5, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[41] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, pp. 1–2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[42] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, pp. 1–2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[43] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, pp. 2–3, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 12–13, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[44] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, pp. 2–3, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[45] Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Nango, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Second Cycle United Nations Universal Periodic Review Civil Society Organisations Stakeholders Report, pp. 7–8, http://www.zlhr.org.zw/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CSO-Report-Web.pdf, Mar. 23, 2016. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, p. 12, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[46] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[47] Anonymous, interviewed by DPW, p. 2, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. INT-1, Jun. 19, 2017.
[48] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 5–6, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.
[49] Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Memo to DPW, pp. 5, 8, 13, DPW Zimbabwe Doc. M-1, May 6, 2017.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

In its 1998 Concluding Observations regarding Zimbabwe’s compliance with the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Zimbabwe review its laws in order to reduce the number of offences that are punishable by the death penalty in accordance with Article 6 of the ICCPR. [1] The Committee also expressed concern over severe conditions resulting in a high number of deaths in Zimbabwe’s prisons. [2] As of September 2019, Zimbabwe’s second report to the Human Rights Committee had been overdue since June 2002. [3]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

In its Concluding Observations on Zimbabwe’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the treatment of juveniles in the justice system. [4] The Committee recommended that Zimbabwe: raise the age of criminal responsibility to that of international standards; harmonize incompatible laws with the 2013 Constitution; and ensure the provision of qualified legal aid to juvenile defendants. [5]

At its 2016 Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council, Zimbabwe “noted” all recommendations relating to the abolition of the death penalty, [6] and accepted several recommendations to fully implement the 2013 Constitution and to harmonize its existing legislation. [7] The 2016 Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review reported that the issue of the death penalty had arisen during the consultative process for the 2013 Constitution, including the possibility of Zimbabwe joining the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. [8] Nevertheless, as the report stated that most people favored the death penalty, joining the Second Optional Protocol was delayed, though the 2013 Constitution included some restrictions on the use of the death penalty. [9] The report included recommendations for abolishing the death penalty. [10]

References

[1] U.N. Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Zimbabwe, para. 20, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.89, Apr. 6, 1998.
[2] U.N. Human Rights Committee, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Zimbabwe, para. 18, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.89, Apr. 6, 1998.
[3] U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report Status by Country, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Countries.aspx?CountryCode=ZWE&Lang=EN, last accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
[4] U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Zimbabwe, para. 77, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/ZWE/CO/2, Mar. 7, 2016.
[5] U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Zimbabwe, para. 77, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/ZWE/CO/2, Mar. 7, 2016.
[6] Government of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s responses to recommendations, https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/zimbabwe/session_26_-_november_2016/recommendations_and_pledges_zimbabwe_2016.pdf, Nov. 2, 2017.
[7] Government of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s responses to recommendations, https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/zimbabwe/session_26_-_november_2016/recommendations_and_pledges_zimbabwe_2016.pdf, Nov. 2, 2017.
[8] U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, para. 20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/34/8, Dec. 28, 2016.
[9] U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, para. 20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/34/8, Dec. 28, 2016.
[10] U.N. Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, paras. 132.82–132.88, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/34/8, Dec. 28, 2016.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Website: http://www.zlhr.org.zw/ Email: [email protected] Address: Kodzero/Amalungelo House, No. 103 Sam Nujoma (2nd) Street, Harare, Zimbabwe Phone Number: +263 8677005347, +263 242 705370/708118/764085

Zimbabwe Civic Educational Trust (ZIMCET) Website: http://www.zimcet.org.zw/ Address: 44 Tredgold Rd, Belvedere, P.O Box 1858, Harare Phone Number: +263 4 741358/741552/740427

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association Website: http://www.zwla.co.zw Address: 17 Fife Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe; 134 J. Tongogara Street Cnr. 14th Avenue Bulawayo Email: Harare: [email protected], Bulawayo: [email protected] Phone Number: Harare: +242 708491, +242 706820, Bulawayo: 09-887186/887187

Veritas Zimbabwe Website: http://www.veritaszim.net/ Email: [email protected] Phone Number: +263 71 893 3633, +263 775 459 788

Helpful Reports and Publications

Mai Sato, 12 Years without an Execution: Is Zimbabwe Ready for Abolition? A survey of public attitudes towards the death penalty, The Death Penalty Project, http://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/12-Years-Report.pdf, Apr. 2018.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Report on the Visit to Chikurubi Maximum Prison (Male Section) on the 18th of March 2015 (A Response to the Friday 13th of March 2015 Riot), http://www.zhrc.org.zw/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Chikurubi-Report.pdf, Mar. 2015.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Nango, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Second Cycle United Nations Universal Periodic Review Civil Society Organisations Stakeholders Report, http://www.zlhr.org.zw/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CSO-Report-Web.pdf, Mar. 23, 2016.

Additional notes regarding this country