Mozambique civil society campaigns for prisoners' right to vote

On 20 February 2019 a group of non-governmental organisations submitted a request to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and to the Ombudsman to take a position on the right of prisoners to vote.

Every citizen has the right to vote, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Mandela Rules stipulate that the prison regime should seek to minimize the differences between life in prison and life outside. All these are mandatory international instruments for the Mozambican State. Neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Kenya have recognised and protect the right of prisoners to vote.

Article 73 of the Constitution of the Republic of Mozambique states that "the Mozambican people exercise political power through universal, direct, equal, secret and periodic suffrage for the election of their representatives, by a referendum on the major national issues and the permanent democratic participation of citizens in the life of the Nation." Article 61 (3) states that "No penalty shall entail the loss of any civil, professional or political rights […]. The current Electoral Law (Law no. 12/2014, Law no. 11/2014 and Law no. 7/2018) provides for the right to vote without limitations. The law does not prohibit prisoners' right to vote. 

However, roughly 20 000 inmates across the country do not vote in practice. The request to take a position examines not only the international and national legal frameworks, but also rejects commonly held perception and arguments against prisoners exercising their right to vote.

The request was submitted by REFORMAR – Research for Mozambique together with the following civil society organisations:

Associação Cidadãos de Moçambique, Quelimane
Associação Nacional dos Juristas Moçambicanos - ANJUR, Associação de Apoio
aos Reclusos com Deficiência em Moçambique – ARDM, Associação
Moçambicana de Mulheres de Carreira Jurídica – AMMCJ, Centro de
Integridade Publica – CIP, Fórum das Rádios Comunitárias – FORCOM, JOINTLiga
de ONGs em Moçambique, Fórum Mulher, Fórum Provincial da Sociedade
Civil de Nampula, Instituto de Educação Cívica é a favorável - FECIV, LAMBDA,
Mulher Lei e Desenvolvimento – MULEIDE, Núcleo de Direitos Humanos da
Universidade UP de Maxixe, Women Law in Southern Africa Research Trust – WLSA.

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