Zambia Abolishes the Death Penalty

Updated 12.26.22

Zambia, the southern African nation of over 19 million people, has abolished the death penalty. Human rights activists are hailing the decision as a “huge milestone in the removal of colonial laws.” Zambia becomes the latest nation to repeal capital punishment as an acceptable punishment, a trend that has spread across the globe in the last decade.

After gaining independence from Britain in 1964, Zambia has made progress eliminating elements of colonial rule. It was praised by the World Bank as one of the world’s fastest growing economically reformed countries in 2010.

For decades, government leaders appointed by the British government maintained the death penalty, but in May current President Hakainde Hichilema vowed to eliminate it. “We will work with Parliament to run this process as we transition away from the death penalty and focus on the preservation and rehabilitation of life while still delivering justice for all,” he said.

At the time, President Hichilema also announced that he pardoned 2,652 people detained in various correctional facilities and commuted the death sentences of 30 people to life in prison. “We believe in showing strength through our compassion,” the president said, “and we believe in rights for all citizens, including the right to life.”

The official abolition of capital punishment in Zambia last week adds to a growing global consensus for universal abolition of the death penalty. Over 109 countries have formally banned the death penalty across the globe. An additional three dozen countries have effectively banned its use with no active application of the law. In 2021, executions were carried out in just 18 countries. Following abolition in Equatorial Guinea in September, Zambia is the second country to achieve abolition in the last several months.