Remission of sentences and the constitutionality of life imprisonment in Seychelles

Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi

  Abstract


Section 30 of the Seychelles Prisons Act provides that the sentences of all prisoners, except those sentenced to life imprisonment or convicted of drug-related offenses of an aggravated nature, can be remitted. Section 31 of the Prisons Act empowers the Superintendent of Prisons to grant a prisoner a license to be at large. Before 2021, Seychelles law was silent on the issue of whether a person sentenced to life imprisonment had to spend the rest of his/her life in prison. As a result, offenders sentenced to life imprisonment were released after serving between 15 and 20 years. Dissatisfied with this approach, the Court of Appeal held that life imprisonment should mean imprisonment for the remainder of the offender’s life. In 2021, the Criminal Procedure Code was amended to define life imprisonment as imprisonment for the remainder of the offender’s natural life. Article 60 of the Constitution empowers the President to commute any sentence. This implies that in theory, the President could invoke Article 60 to release offenders sentenced to life imprisonment.  In this article, the author relies on, amongst other sources, jurisprudence from some African countries, the European Court of Human Rights, and international human rights bodies to argue that the sentence of life imprisonment as defined in Seychelles law is unconstitutional for violating the prisoner’s rights to human dignity and not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. The author also relies on the drafting history of Article 10(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to argue, inter alia, that life imprisonment without the possibility of release is contrary to Seychelles’ international human rights obligations.


  Keywords


remission of sentence; life imprisonment; constitutionality; prerogative of mercy; Seychelles

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  References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.30641/ham.2024.15.63-84

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