Zambia: IBAHRI welcomes death penalty abolition

Friday 17 March 2023

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) commends Zambia and President Hakainde Hichilema for passing Penal Code (Amendment) Bill Number 25 of 2022 ('the Bill'), which formally eradicated the death penalty in the country following a de facto moratorium since 1997. The bill also abolished the offence of criminal defamation of the President.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc commented: ‘The IBAHRI applauds the Parliament and President Hichilema’s decision to abolish the death penalty for civilian offences in Zambia. Universal abolition of the death penalty is necessary to uphold human dignity and respect human rights. We urge other countries to follow Zambia’s example and put an end to the death penalty in both law and in practice. The IBAHRI opposes the death penalty in any instance.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE stated: ‘The IBAHRI commends President Hichilema for upholding his campaign pledge to amend laws that inhibit democracy, human rights, and basic freedoms by abolishing the death penalty. We encourage the government to consolidate its commitment to abolition by amending the Defence Act and any associated military codes to prohibit the death penalty for military crimes, by amending the Bill of Rights to reflect abolition, and by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In May 2022, President Hichilema submitted the Bill to Parliament and commuted the sentences of 30 death-row prisoners. In October 2022, Zambia’s Cabinet approved a review of the penal and criminal procedure codes. The Bill was then debated in Parliament before being passed in December. On 23 December 2022, President Hichilema signed the Bill, which does not have retrospective effect, into law. In February 2023, the President commuted 390 death sentences to life imprisonment. As such, there are reportedly no longer any individuals on death row in Zambia.

Zambia is the 25th country in Africa to abolish the death penalty, after Sierra Leone in 2021 and the Central African Republic in 2022, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty – an alliance of more than 160 non-governmental organisations, bar associations, local authorities and unions working to eliminate capital punishment for all crimes. 


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Notes to the Editor

  1. On 15 May 2008, the IBAHRI Council adopted its Resolution on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which considers, inter alia, the clear trend towards viewing the death penalty as a breach of international human rights standards, as well as committing the IBAHRI to actively promoting the abolition of the death penalty.
  2. Related material:
    Central African Republic: IBAHRI welcomes abolition of the death penalty 
    IBAHRI welcomes the abolition of the death penalty in Kazakhstan 

  3.  The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  4. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:

  5. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
  6. Find the IBA (@IBAnews) on social media here:

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