One in three people on Uganda’s death row could be innocent – claim
RELEASE: Ugandan death row prisoners sing for their lives for an album released through the UK’s African Prisons Project
AFRICAN death row inmates who formed a “condemned choir” are singing for their lives this week with a special album released through a British charity.
The Ugandan prisoners, who were convicted for crimes including murder, armed robbery and treason, recorded the CD with the help of the African Prisons Project to campaign against the death penalty.
On Thursday, inmates will take their case for the abolition of the death penalty to the Supreme Court.
Human rights groups estimate that one in three of the 600 or so men and women on death row in the East African country could be innocent.
Alexander McLean, the 23-year-old founder of the project, is calling for leniency.
“When you are on death row, and you face the possibility of death every day, singing becomes a form of release,” he said.
Mr McLean said the atmosphere in death row, situated in the Luzira prisons complex outside Kampala, was “optimistic and expectant”.
There have been no executions of civilian prisoners on death row since 1999 when 28 men were hanged at the gallows in a single day. Since then, a coalition of inmates formed a joint petition against the Ugandan government, arguing that the death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading.
In 2005, the constitutional court ruled in favour of the death penalty, but it did find there should be no mandatory death sentence.
Death row inmate Africa Gabula, 37, said he was arrested for treason at the age of 17. He has spent more than 15 years on death row – and has been “dying for 20 years”.
“It’s very easy to go mad here when you live in the shadow of death all the time,” he said during an interview at the prison.
The Commissioner General of prisons, in charge of the country’s 220 jails and 26,000 inmates, IS HIMSELF AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC of the death penalty and justice system.
“Because of our inefficient systems, you cannot be sure that you are not going to execute the wrong people,” he said.