Uganda - Court to hear death penalty appeal

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Uganda - Court to hear death penalty appeal

Post  Jennie on Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:29 pm

Court to hear death penalty appeal

The Supreme Court will today begin hearing arguments in a case that is set to determine whether the death penalty should be imposed on murder convicts.

Ms Susan Kigula and 416 other convicts on death row, in a case filed against the attorney general, have appealed against 2005 Constitutional Court decision that fell short of scrapping the death penalty from Uganda’s criminal justice books.

The 417 convicts, all of them condemned for murder, are challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Their lawyer is expected to argue that the death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading, according to documents before the Supreme Court.

But the government wants the Supreme Court to retain the death penalty as the mandatory sentence for murder and other serious crimes. The government’s legal team is expected to ask the Supreme Court to nullify all the decisions of the Constitutional Court.

In June 2005, the Constitutional Court reached a decision that was largely favourable to the convicts, most of whom had been on death row for more than 5 years.

In a majority judgement, the court ruled that the automatic nature of the death penalty for murder and other offences was unfair as it did not allow the convicts an opportunity to mitigate their death sentences.

The court also outlawed inordinate delays by the government in carrying out death sentences, saying all convicts who had spent at least three years on death row were entitled to have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The decision nullified the death sentences on all 417 prisoners.

Now, a decision by the Supreme Court would determine, once and for all, whether the death sentences on the 417 individuals should be set aside.

The death penalty is currently carried out by hanging, and the 417 prisoners say that those on death row often wait in torment for unreasonable lengths of time before execution. According to prison records, at least 377 people have been legally executed by hanging since 1938.

(source: Daily Monitor)

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