government: multiparty democracy
state of civil and political rights: Partly free
constitution: 18 May 1994
legal system: based on English common law and customary law
legislative system: National Assembly (though the Constitution of Malawi provides that there shall be a Senate and a National Assembly, in practice, Malawi has a unicameral legislative body as only the latter is functional)
judicial system: High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal, Magistrate's courts
religion: Christian 79.9%, Muslim 12.8%, other 3%, none 4.3%
death row: 29 (as of May 2014, DPW)
year of last executions: 26-9-1992
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
offences for which capital punishment either can or must be applied are murder,
rape, treason, armed robbery and burglary with aggravating circumstances.
Records show that from 1972 to 1993 during Kamuzu Banda's dictatorship a total
of 823 were sentenced to death. Out of the 823 convicts, 299 were executed and
the remaining ones either died in prison or were pardoned. Following Banda,
Bakili Muluzi won the first multiparty election in 1994.
In 1994, Bakili Muluzi won the first
multiparty election. He was credited for improving Malawi’s human rights record
and had pledged to never sign a death warrant throughout his tenure, which
lasted until May 2004. His successors, until now, have not changed attitude on
the death penalty.
In April 2007, the Malawi High Court
in the case of Francis Kafantayeni and
Others v. Attorney General abolished the mandatory death sentence in
Malawi. The sentences of all prisoners on death row were vacated and the
defendants remitted for sentence. In 2011, Malawi approved amendments to the
Penal Code allowing courts discretion in sentencing murder suspects.
In 2011, Malawi amended the Penal Code to allow courts
wide discretion in condemning the murder suspects.
After many years of delay, finally,
in February 2015, the Malawi High Courts began holding resentencing hearings on
cases of the 191 prisoners entitled to be re-sentenced following the 2007 High
Court ruling. As of 31 December 2015, the courts had heard 64 cases, of which
63 were re-sentenced. Fifty-one of the completed cases resulted in immediate
release of prisoners, while 12 death sentences were commuted to terms of
imprisonment. None received life sentences or new death sentences.
On 12 November 2015, speaking at a
workshop organised by the European Union, the United Nations (UN) and the
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to solicit views on the death penalty,
the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, assured the
EU, UN and MHRC that government was working towards the abolition of the death
According to information received
from the government of Malawi, three men – Dickson Elia, Misheck Chigona and
Paul Bisiwick Maulana – were sentenced to death for murder in 2015, reported
On 18 August 2015, 23-year-old
Dickson Elia was sentenced to death by the high court sitting in Dedza after
being found guilty of killing Umbwi Secondary School teacher, his wife and a 6-
month-old baby in October 2013.
In November 2016, Hands off Cain carried out a mission to Malawi in order to call for a vote in favor of the UNGA Resolution pro-moratorium, in the framework of a project supported by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs. The delegation headed by Antonio Stango (member of the Board of Hands Off Cain and President of the Italian League for Human Rights), and whose members include Eleonora Mongelli, Yuliya Vassilyeva and Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan (Vice President of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty) met in the capital of Malawi the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Francis Lazalo Kasaila, and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu.
The Foreign Minister announced that Malawi, which had abstained in previous votes, this year will vote in favor of the moratorium.
As it was noticed in both meetings, Malawi, which since 1993 has observed a de facto moratorium on executions, may perform in the near future other significant steps towards abolition. However, to this end a gradually growing consensus among the population will be necessary. The Foreign Minister noted that it would be important to develop, with the help of organizations such as Hands Off Cain, information programs involving the civil society.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs announced the vote in favor of the Resolution.
On 5 May 2015, Malawi was reviewed
under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. The
recommendations to continue the moratorium on the death penalty were examined
by Malawi and enjoyed its support, while those to abolish the death penalty and
to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR were rejected.
On 19 December 2016, Malawi, for the first time, voted in favor of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN
General Assembly. It previously, abstained.