Friday, January 23, 2009

Ugandan Inmates Challenge Death Penalty

Uganda's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by more than 400 inmates, on death row, to abolish death penalty. The judges of the Court upheld the punishment though ruling out that convicts should be executed within three year after sentencing.

On Monday, prisoners on Uganda's death row launched a legal challenge against capital punishment in the East African state.

The verdict comes close to fours years after the government appealed against an earlier constitutional court ruling that upheld that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional, although overall, the court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The 2005 judgment ruled unconstitutional the automatic nature of the death penalty in Uganda for murder and other offences amounted to inhuman punishment, also indicating that it did not provide the individuals concerned with an opportunity to mitigate their sentences.

The Constitutional Court has provided the government with a 2 year period to give effect to the judgment after which all death sentences will be set aside. The Court also ruled that any of the prisoners who have been on death row more than 3 years would be entitled to have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

In 2003, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative contested the constitutionality of the death penalty which they said was cruel and inhumane.

According to the Uganda Prisons Department, in August 2005 there were more than 550 prisoners on death row, 27 of whom are women. The number of people on death row has increased from 525 on 31 December 2004. They have been convicted for various criminal offences including murder, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, treason, and cowardice in action.

No death sentences have been carried out in Uganda since 1999, when 28 people were executed in a single day. South Africa, Cape Verde and Rwanda are some of the countries in Africa that have abolished the death penalty.

Read it here.

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