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Everyone has the right to life.


The right to life is unqualified. This right is fundamental to the twin tenets of Human Rights and Ubuntu. It means that life cannot be taken away, but also that the state is under a positive obligation to protect the lives of its citizens.


The death penalty

The death penalty was abolished in South Africa in 1995, but the debate surrounding capital punishment is unresolved. The right to life thus governs judgements surrounding issues related to justice and retribution. The judgement in the case of the State v Makwanyane included a section which saw the right to life as the 'source of values', and provided a response to the issue raised during this trial, regarding whether or not "capital punishment is a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment." This includes legislation governing the rights of prisoners, specifically regarding the rights of prisoners facing the death penalty under foreign laws. This includes whether or not the state is able to deport prisoners to another country if that prisoner would be at risk of being put to death there, as discussed the case of Mohamed v the President of the Republic of South Africa. According to the Foreign Prisoner Support Group, there remains a drastic need for education and awareness campaigns around foreign internment, since prison conditions, and laws governing sentencing, are often in conflict with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Currently, South Africa has not entered into prisoner exchange agreements with foreign countries, thus compromising the right to life for those currently facing the death penalty in foreign prisons.

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