In June, The Death Penalty Project, in partnership with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), launched new research exploring attitudes to the death penalty in Kenya. The two-part report, written by Professor Carolyn Hoyle and her team at The Death Penalty Research Unit (DPRU) at University of Oxford, interrogated the commonly held assumption that the majority of people in Kenya support the retention of the death penalty.
The launch was held in Nairobi on 14th June and was attended by a wide range of stakeholders including legislators and representatives from those working within Kenya’s criminal justice system.
Together with KNCHR, we presented the key findings from the report which evidenced that not only are the majority of Kenya’s opinion formers in favour of abolition, but the Kenyan public hold flexible and nuanced views and are open to abolition. Part one of the report found that despite a tiny majority (51%) of the public favouring retention, their initial support reduced significantly when presented with further information about the punishment.
- When the public considered the risk of the state executing innocent people, support fell from 51 per cent to 28 per cent.
- When the public was asked which crime reduction measures they preferred, most did not favour harsh punishments, but instead selected social justice measures
Part two of the report found that the vast majority (90%) of opinion formers, those considered influential in shaping public opinion, were in support of abolition and that 75% felt the public would accept a government policy that abolished capital punishment.
For more key findings from the reports, view our briefing note here.
Read our report ‘The Death Penalty in Kenya: A punishment that has Died Out in Practice’ on our knowledge page.
Reflections on the event:
We would like to thank Dr Raymond Nyeris, Vice Chairman of KNCHR, for joining us on the panel and driving discussions forward. We also had representatives from EU delegation, Kenya, British High Commission and the Judiciary.
The launch was also attended by members of several local organisations and had a great media presence, including articles written in People Daily, Nairobi News and the Nairobi Times. The Star newspaper also published two of our op-eds, both of which can be viewed on our News page. Our report launch was also featured on KTN TV news, which is available to watch on YouTube.
In addition to the launch event, we met with Kenyan CSO’s to discuss next steps to promote abolition of the death penalty.
We were pleased to have time to have meet with Wilson Kinyua, a former death row inmate in Kenya. Wilson shared his incredible story with us, talking us through his experiences of the justice system and how on death row he qualified as a lawyer.
Parvais Jabbar, our Co-Executive Director speaking on the event:
“We are delighted that our report launch in Kenya was successful and thrilled that after two years of restrictions caused by the pandemic, that we were able to be there in-person. It was great to see so many key figures energised and engaged and to hear people’s thoughts and reflections on the research. The discussions that followed raised important questions on the steps that now need to be taken by the government to achieve the removal of this archaic punishment and we hope that collectively we can build a pathway to abolition.”
Professor Carolyn Hoyle, Director of The Death Penalty Research Unit at University of Oxford:
“It was a privilege to present and share the findings of this ground-breaking research, and I‘m delighted that the research received such a positive reception. Upon hearing so many key stakeholders express an openness to abolition we left with a renewed hope that Kenya could be the next country in Africa, if not globally, to remove the death penalty.”
Following on from the launch:
We look forward to returning to Kenya later this year to launch our third report examining the socio-economic profiles of death row prisoners in Kenya and their experiences in prison. The stories of real people, like Wilson and those included in our up-coming report, further stresses the need for abolition of the death penalty in Kenya.