International human rights advocacy and the abolition of irreducible life imprisonment in ZimbabwePosted: 13 September, 2016 Filed under: Andrew Novak | Tags: Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, Death Penalty Project, domestic law, European Court of Human Rights, foreign jurisprudence, global jurisprudenc, human rights, international death penalty litigation, international human rights norms, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, Justice Bharat Patel, law reform, life without parole, Makoni v. Commissioner of Prisons, parole, Prisons Act, rehabilitative criminal sentences, South African Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Namibia, Tendai Biti, transnational human rights, transnational human rights advocates, Veritas Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Leave a comment
Author: Andrew Novak
Adjunct Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University
On July 13, 2016, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe (ConCourt) found that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional as it violated the rights to equal protection and human dignity and the prohibition on cruel and degrading punishment. The decision, Makoni v. Commissioner of Prisons, is undoubtedly a victory for human rights, due to the dismal state of prison conditions in Zimbabwe and the emotional and psychological harm caused by indeterminate sentences. In its decision, the ConCourt cited a wide range of jurisprudence from foreign and international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, South African Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Namibia, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London to discern a global trend toward rehabilitative criminal sentences. Many of these foreign and international legal sources were brought to the ConCourt’s attention by transnational human rights lawyers themselves in their Heads of Argument, underscoring the important role that advocates play in the diffusion of international human rights norms.