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January 28 2009 | UGANDA


President Museveni backs Supreme Court on keeping death penalty. But soon 418 death row inmates could be released

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The New Vision

Museveni backs court on death penalty

President Yoweri Museveni has praised judges for refusing to scrap the death penalty.

Addressing the 23rd National Resistance Movement/Army victory celebrations at Kololo ceremonial grounds yesterday, Museveni said those who kill innocent Ugandans deserve nothing less than death.

“There were some people asking the Supreme Court to abolish the death penalty. It is not the work of the Supreme Court to do this but Parliament. I am glad the courts also saw it and said it is not their duty.

“Those who say the death penalty should be scrapped are those who think what one does to another should not be done to them. How can you kill people and say your life should not be taken?” he asked.

The President was reacting to a recent media poll on whether after 23 years the NRM had achieved the fundamental change it promised.

He said one of the indicators of the change achieved was the abolition of extra judicial killings to secure the lives and property of Ugandans.

“Right from the bush days, no one would kill a Ugandan and remain free. You kill someone, nawe ofa ssassi (you also die of a bullet), that’s our modus operandi,” he said.

This decisive stand, he added, tamed the army, Police and intelligence agencies.

“Nobody from these organs can kill a Ugandan with impunity because they know the consequences,” he said.

The theme of the day’s celebrations was “Consolidating the Vision of NRM; Challenges and expectations”.

Museveni challenged anybody to name one soldier or Police officer killed by the Idi Amin, Okello Lutwa or Obote II regimes between 1962 and 1986 for wantonly killing civilians.

“In these 24 years, over 800,000 people were killed and no soldier was ever punished. Ever since the NRA took power in 1986, a total of 22 soldiers have been executed and 147 condemned to death although the sentences are yet to be carried out,” he said.

The NRM treasures the blood of Ugandans, he explained.

Hundreds of people who braved the morning rain kept on chanting and urging the President on. “Bagambe (tell them),” one group kept shouting.

As another indicator of fundamental change, Museveni said national and local government elections are held after every five years, electoral reforms have been undertaken to reduce rigging by having party agents and announcing results immediately. The remaining obstacle, he added, was full computerisation of the voter register to catch cheats.



Uganda: The Death Penalty Should Stay

26 January 2009

Kampala — The recent Supreme Court judgment in Constitutional Appeal No 3/2006 Attorney General V Susan Kigula and 417 others implies that any time from now, 418 convicted murderers and robbers may walk out of prison as free men and women.

The death penalty hanging over their heads has been rendered unenforceable since the sentences were not carried out within three years after being confirmed by the final court.

Article 121(4) of the Constitution gives the President the prerogative to pardon a convict from the execution of the punishment imposed on him/her or to commute the sentence to a lesser one. The law does not impose a time limit within which the President is to exercise this prerogative.

In imposing a three-year limit in which to order execution or pardon of death row convicts, the Supreme Court has unduly impeded the exercise of the presidential prerogative of mercy. The President is being stampeded into releasing convicts who may not deserve to be released and ordering mass execution of convicts who may deserve leniency.

He will be blackmailed into pardoning death row convicts for fear of being labelled a sadist if he orders daily executions and effectively the death penalty will be practically non-existent.

It baffles me that self-appointed human rights activists always aggressively champion the pampering of criminals and not human rights and freedoms of innocent law abiding victims. Is this not being insensitive to the feelings of families of murdered victims, defiled babies, ritually murdered children and hard working citizens who are dispossessed of their property by thugs?

Is national security, peace and stability less significant than the so called rights of criminals? Don't criminals have a duty to be law abiding and to respect the rights and freedoms of others? Should we continue to condemn self-help/mob justice?

In man lies an amalgam of good and bad impulses constantly in conflict, the bad tending to prevail over the good. The death penalty is an indispensable restraint upon the forces of evil implanted in the minds of murderers, robbers and defilers. Ugandans aspire for peace, security of life and property.

The writer is former commissioner of the Uganda Human Rights Commission



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