Uganda’s death row debate

Uganda’s poorly funded prisons are currently crammed with 500 prisoners on death row. Henry Tugume, head of Luzira Upper Prison, which holds the condemned prisoners, says the facility was built in 1927 to accommodate 664 inmates but currently houses over 2,500.

Some inmates have been on death row in Luzira for up to two decades. Prison authorities say that this constitutes torture and inhumane treatment. Moses Kakungulu, director of operations in the Prisons Service, has proposed that execution of convicts be privatized if the death penalty cannot be abolished. He says the hangings brutalize the Prisons Service, which has a central role of reforming and rehabilitating offenders to make them good citizens.

The death row inmates have filed a petition at the Constitutional Court calling for the scrapping of the death sentence in a suit supported by several human rights groups.

But Ugandans remains deeply divided on the issue. Margaret Sekagya – who chairs the state-appointed Human Rights Commission – advocates abolition of the death sentence for rape, defilement and treason offences, but wants it retained for murder and aggravated robbery. A constitutional review commission, which addressed the issue, is about to be released.

New Internationalist issue 366 magazine cover This article is from the April 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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