Uganda’s Executive is making a belated move to take charge of the private member’s Bill that seeks to amend four laws with reference to the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment for the most serious crimes.
While appearing before the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee on April 14, Attorney-General Fred Ruhindi proposed that the Bill moved by Serere District Woman MP Alice Alaso be merged with the government’s proposals prepared by the Uganda Law Reform Commission.
“Our Constitution talks about death penalty. People said death penalty should be retained. These are serious matters which need a careful review and analysis. Uganda Law Reform is doing something on this Bill and I was advising members of parliament… I think they agreed with me that I look at the proposal which they made,” said Mr Ruhindi.
Some legislators argue that the Executive’s move is likely to cause variations like the introduction of parole, which the Bill in its current form does not share. Uganda upholds the death penalty for all capital offences.
“We are after conforming with the principles of the judgment of the Supreme Court, so we want all provisions in our law books that prescribe death penalty changed,” said MP Hamson Obua.
The Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2015, moved by Ms Alaso in November last year proposes life imprisonment for crimes like murder, rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated defilement and terrorism.
If passed in its current state, the Bill will amend and repeal the provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, The Penal Code Act chapter 120 of the laws of Uganda, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Act, 2005 and the Trial on Indictment Act chapter 23. All these laws provide for mandatory death penalties for convicted persons.
The implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision meant that all death row convicts who had not been executed after three years following confirmation of sentence by the Supreme Court had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
In addition, convicts were given the opportunity to mitigate the sentences before a High Court Judge. African Prisons Project and the Centre for Capital Punishment Studies shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, moved in to train inmates on how to mitigate their sentences.
However, since the Court’s judgement, government has not made any effort to revise the laws to remove the inconsistencies.