Wednesday, January 21, 2009

UGANDA: Supreme Court rules on death penalty today

The Supreme Court, in a landmark death penalty decision today, could spare the lives of over 570 condemned prisoners, if the ruling turns in their favour. The verdict, at the country's highest court, comes close to 4 years after government appealed against an earlier Constitutional Court ruling that upheld that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional.

It followed a petition filed in 2003 by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, a human rights body, on behalf of 417 death row inmates, contesting the constitutionality of the death penalty which they said was cruel and inhumane. FHRI has been at the forefront of advocating for the abolition of the death penalty, which they argue is a violation of the right to life.

In July 2005, the Constitutional Court ruled that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional, although overall, the court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty.

FHRI Executive Director Livingstone Sewanyana told Daily Monitor yesterday that he was hopeful that today’s ruling would turn up in their favour.

"Our view is that the Supreme Court will use its wisdom to come out with a ruling that is favourable and it's the people of Uganda that will ultimately benefit," he said.

If the ruling turns in favour of the petitioners, it could lead to the reversal of hundreds of death sentences handed to inmates over the years. Uganda has not enforced the death penalty since 28 men were hanged on April 28, 1999. South Africa, Cape Verde and Rwanda are some of the African countries in Africa that have abolished the death penalty.

(source: Daily Monitor)

Watch for something from our Uganda brother, Edward Mpagi soon!

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