Challenging the Death Penalty


Alarmed by reports regarding the administration of the death
penalty in Uganda, and aware that a petition filed in
September 2003 against the death penalty, signed by 417
death row inmates, was pending before the Constitutional
Court of Uganda (see below), the FIDH decided to send an
international fact-finding mission to the country.

The mandate of the mission was to inquire into the
administration of the capital punishment in Uganda, including
the conditions of detention on death row. The objective was
also to assess the possibility of Uganda abolishing the death
penalty, or adopting a moratorium on capital punishment, as
a first step towards its abolition, and to issue
recommendations in that regard.

According to Amnesty International, there were at least 525
inmates on death row in Uganda in December 2004. No
civilians have been executed since May 1999, when 28 death
row inmates were hanged at Luzira Prison. Three soldiers
were executed by firing squad in March 2003.

The mission was composed of three delegates: Mr. Eric
Mirguet, lawyer (France), Mr. Thomas Lemaire, lawyer (France)
and Ms. Mary Okosun, Coordinator-administration of theJustice programme, Civil Liberties Organisation (Nigeria). They
visited Uganda from 19 to 27 March 2005.

The cooperation of the civilian authorities was fully
satisfactory since the FIDH mission was able to meet with a
number of officials, including the Minister of Internal Affairs
and the Chief Justice of Uganda; the delegates were also able
to visit the Kirinya (Jinja) prisons (Jinja Remand Prison and
Jinja Main Prison) and to meet death row prisoners.

The general feeling of NGOs and abolitionists in Uganda is
that the most pressing issue is the situation of ordinary
prisoners, while the death penalty as administered by the
military should be addressed at a second stage. The
questions relating to the military are sensitive issues in
Uganda, which might also explain that position. The focus of
the present report is consequently mainly on the death
sentences pronounced by ordinary criminal courts.

The FIDH would like to thank all the persons met by the
mission, and extends a special thanks to the Foundation for
Human Rights Initiatives (FHRI), its member organisation in
Uganda, which closely cooperated in the preparation of the

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