In its 18 pages judgement, the second highest court in Kenya has held that the indeterminate life sentence violates various provisions of the Kenyan constitution, including the provision on the right to dignity.
The decision vide; criminal appeal No. 12 of 2021 Julius K Manyeso V Republic (Coram: Nyamweya, Lesiit and Odunga JJ.A) delivered on 7th May 2023 presents considerable jurisprudence in the Kenyan constitutional law.
The background of this case is that the appellant allegedly defiled a minor aged four at Malindi, and the trial court convicted him on the offence of defilement—which conviction and sentence were upheld by the High Court on appeal hence the instant appeal that discussed the veracity and constitutionality of the sentence.
The court was guided by the supreme court decision in Francis Karioko Muruatetu & Another v Republic  eKLR fortified by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Vinter and others vs The United Kingdom (Application nos. 66069/09, 130/10 and 3896/10)  III ECHR 317 (9 July 2013) in arriving at a reasoning that not only is the indeterminate life sentence inhumane, it also violates the right to dignity both rights guaranteed and protected by the constitution of the republic of Kenya.
The court, on page 13, noted that;
“An indeterminate life sentence is in our view also inhumane treatment and violates the right to dignity under Article 28… an indeterminate life sentence without any prospect of release or a possibility of review is degrading and inhuman punishment, and that it is now a principle in international law that all prisoners, including those serving life sentences, be offered the possibility of rehabilitation and the prospect of release if that rehabilitation is achieved”.
The decision is handy for constitutional and human rights lawyers in Kenya and beyond.
The Author, Simon Nyakoojo, is a Senior Legal Writer and Founding Partner at the Judicial Sound Exponent. If you think we can improve this article or have any queries, please email us via [email protected]