Skip to main content arrow-down arrow-tail-right arrow-triangle-right calendar camera compass download email eye facebook flag mail phone pin play send square-right tag twitter youtube badge message

Kenyan Supreme Court Declares Mandatory Death Penalty Unconstitutional

  • News
  • 14 Dec 2017

The mandatory death penalty violates fundamental human rights the Supreme Court of Kenya has ruled today in a historic judgment that will affect thousands of prisoners.

Prior to the judgment, any person convicted of murder, or robbery with violence, in Kenya would automatically receive the death penalty, without any consideration of the individual circumstances of their case. The Death Penalty Project has been litigating this issue in Kenya for over a decade, arguing that depriving judges of discretion over whether to impose a death sentence violates the right to a fair trial and amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life.

The Supreme Court judgment finally determines the issue in the Kenyan courts. Contradictory rulings passed by the Court of Appeal had created legal confusion over the status of the mandatory death penalty, adding to the agony of those on death row waiting to find out whether their death sentences would be quashed.

The judgment means that new sentencing procedures will now have to be adopted in serious criminal proceedings in Kenya. For the first time judges will be able to exercise discretion over whether the death penalty should be imposed, taking into account all mitigating factors, such as the mental health of the offender, the circumstances of their offence and good character evidence, to ensure that the sentence imposed is proportionate.

Parvais Jabbar, Co-Executive Director of the Death Penalty Project says:

We would like to congratulate the Supreme Court on this momentous decision. This result comes at the end of many years of dogged persistence and collaboration with dedicated lawyers and NGOs in Kenya. Over the past twenty years there has been a significant global movement away from the mandatory death penalty, recognising it as a cruel and inhuman punishment incompatible with fundamental human rights. Kenya will be the 12th country where we have successfully challenged the constitutionality of this archaic law. The decision will have a huge impact, not only on the thousands of prisoners it immediately affects in Kenya, but we hope it will also pave the way for further reform of the death penalty within Kenya and the Africa region more widely.”

Note to Editors

The Death Penalty Project has been involved in legal challenges to the mandatory death penalty since 2008 (Michael Jimmy Obuoka v Republic [2008] and Godfrey Ngotho Mutiso v Republic [2010]). UK barristers Joseph Middleton and Sir Keir Starmer QC, Doughty Street Chambers have provided pro-bono legal advice and assistance over the years and Joseph Middleton appeared before the Supreme Court of Kenya. From the beginning we have worked closely with Kenyan lawyers Timothy Bryant, Gerry Gitonga and William Wameyo. In this latest challenge, Francis Karioko Muruatetu & Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi v Republic [Writ Petition No.15 of 2015], The Death Penalty Project, as international experts on the death penalty, was admitted as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court, along with local NGO’s Katiba Institute, Legal Resources Foundation, the Kenyan National Commission Human Rights, and the International Commission of Jurists, Kenya.

Latest news

Focus on Africa podcast - Why African countries are saying no to the death penalty
Read More
Zimbabwe's Cabinet backs proposed legislation to abolish the death penalty
Read More
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty: Dignity. Justice. International Symposium on the Right to Life - Taiwan Death Penalty Prison Interview Project
Read More
BLOG: Human Rights Day 2023 – Challenging the myth of public support for the death penalty
Read More
Life After Death Row: interview with Wenceslaus James
Read More
Sunshine Today T & T: "I heard my cell mate executed"
Read More
Attorney to Government: Make up your mind about the death penalty
Read More
Longest serving death row prisoner in T&T released by High Court
Read More
Death row inmate released after resentencing - FREED AFTER 30 YEARS
Read More
Longest serving death row prisoner in T&T released by High Court
Read More
PRESS RELEASE: Longest serving death row prisoner in Trinidad & Tobago released by High Court
Read More
UK Pro bono week – interviews with DPP’s network
Read More
Pressure mounts for Kenya to abolish death penalty
Read More
2023: 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty
Read More
“Serious breach of procedural fairness” - excessive manslaughter sentence quashed in The Bahamas
Read More
Ghana Web: Alban Bagbin praised for repeal of death penalty
Read More
IBAHRI commends abolition of the death penalty - Ghana
Read More
CLA Statement: Commending the Zambian and Ghanaian Governments for Abolishing the Death Penalty
Read More
The Week: Ghana abolishes the death penalty
Read More
The Guardian: Ghana abolishes death penalty, with expected reprieve for 176 condemned prisoners
Read More

Stay up-to-date with our work