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September 25 2009 | UGANDA

Uganda

17 Children on Death Row

 
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New Vision

17 Children on Death Row.

Luzira Prison is stuck with 17 juveniles sentenced to death but cannotbe hanged because they committed the offences when they were below 18 years. Some of them, now adults, have spent 12 years in prison. Their fate can only be determined by the Minister of Justice.

The law does not allow the execution of any convict who is below 18. Such a person is to be detained in safe custody until the minister decides their fate. In the case of the 17 juveniles, it is unclear if the minister will order their execution since some of them are now adults, or release them.

Frank Baine Mayanja, the-- Prisons spokesperson -- said the institution had no power to decide the juveniles' fate. "Some have grown into adults. We are still stranded with them because we must follow orders."

"Will the minister's order be to hang them since they are now adults? To serve a life imprisonment or to be set free?" Baine wondered. "We are waiting but it has sincerely been a long wait."

The report quotes the ministry as saying it was working with the Judiciary to resolve the issue soon. The presiding judge is mandated to recommend to the minister what to do with the children.

The report, however, said the cases date back to 1997, making it hard to trace the judges who passed the sentences. In any case, it added, the judges may not remember the details of each case. The report urged the minister to act appropriately to save the juveniles the anxiety of waiting.

It said children should only be imprisoned as the last resort. The fate of the young people was brought to light in report launched yesterday at Hotel Africana, Kampala by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.

Livingstone Ssewanya, the executive director, said the Children's Act requires children sentenced to death to be handled by the family and children's court. He regretted that the minister's order had delayed and deprived the children of remedial action.

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