Mandatory death penalty ruled unconstitutional in Uganda
The Supreme Court of Uganda upheld the judgment of the Ugandan Constitutional Court on Wednesday, that the mandatory application of the death penalty is unconstitutional. However, the court ruled that the death penalty per se remains constitutional, rejecting both Government and death row prisoners’ appeals. In making this decision, the court also decided that the mandatorily imposed death sentences received by the vast majority of more than 400 appellants in this case should be commuted to life imprisonment. In reaction to the judgement, Amnesty International called on the Ugandan government to take up its responsibility to ensure the amendment of Ugandan law and abolish the death penalty. " All over the world courts are limiting the scope of the death penalty and governments globally are abolishing capital punishment. The leadership of Uganda needs to follow this international trend and abolish the death penalty" said Godfrey Odongo from Amnesty. "While disappointed that the court did not abolish the death penalty completely, Amnesty International welcomes the further restrictions placed on the use of capital punishment. The court ruled that, after three years, a condemned prisoner has suffered cruel and unusual punishment and the death sentence should be commuted. "While this decision will save the lives of many those condemned to death in Uganda, Amnesty International maintains that the unique suffering caused by the imposition of the death penalty starts the moment the sentence is imposed and the person is forced to contemplate their death at the hands of the state. No one should be forced to undergo such treatment. " Since April 1999, there have been no executions following the imposition of the death sentences by civilian courts in Uganda. Wednesday’s ruling is as a result of appeals by the government against a 2005 decision by the Constitutional court that declared the mandatory imposition of death penalty was unconstitutional. The 2005 case had been brought by over 400 prison inmates on death row.