President William Ruto on Friday, July 21, reduced the death penalty for all capital offenders to a life sentence as recommended by the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy.
The directive, published in a Gazette notice by Attorney General Justin Muturi, will apply to all convicts sentenced to death as of November 21, 2022. In addition, Ruto granted clemency to 5,861 convicts, including 2,944 who had served sentences of six months or less and exhibited good conduct. The decision was made in accordance with Article 133 of the 2010 Constitution which grants the president the power to pardon individuals convicted of an offence.
“It is notified for the general information of the public that in the exercise of the powers conferred by Article 133 of the Constitution of Kenya and section 23 (1) of the Power of Mercy Act, 2011, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces of the Republic of Kenya, commuted the death sentence imposed on every capital offender as at November 21, 2022, to a life sentence,” the notice reads in part.
Kenya last enforced the death penalty in 1987 when Hezekiah Ochuka was hanged for treason related to a 1982 coup attempt. The penalty did not align with the 2010 Constitution which promises the right to life and freedom. In 2017, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional while ruling on a case filed by Francis Muruatetu. The 2017 ruling led to the creation of the Taskforce on the Review of the Mandatory Death Sentence.
Former Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta both commuted the sentences of death row inmates to life imprisonment in 2009 and 2016, respectively. In Kenya, a life sentence is until the end of one’s life, not by execution.