state of civil and political rights: Partly free
constitution: 8 October 1995; in 2005 the constitution was amended removing presidential term limits and legalizing a multiparty political system
legal system: in 1995 a system of common and customary law was reintroduced
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly
judicial system: Court of Appeal (judges are appointed by the president and approved by the legislature); High Court (judges are appointed by the president)
religion: Roman Catholic 41.9%, Protestant 42% (Muslim 12.1%, other 3.1%, none 0.9%
death row: 473 (newvision.co.ug, 21/06/2012)
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Uganda's penal code provides for 15 capital offences: nine separate offences grouped under the collective heading “treason” and offences against the state, rape, defilement, murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. Death is a mandatory punishment for six of the treasonous offences and a discretionary sentence for the remaining felonies at the same go.
Article 22 of the Constitution says no person shall be deprived of life intentionally except in execution of a sentence passed by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and the conviction and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court.
Under the 1995 Constitution, the President can exercise the prerogative of mercy in respect of any criminal offence on recommendation of an advisory committee.
In 2001, a Constitutional Review Commission was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni to review the Constitution. The Commission's brief is to gather opinions on the constitution from individuals, non-governmental groups and state institutions. Various groups have recommended the abolition of the death penalty.
The final report of the Commission was handed to the Ministry for Justice and Constitutional Affairs in December 2004, but was not immediately made public. It was to be discussed by the Cabinet, then passed on to Parliament.
On March 20, 2002 parliament in Uganda passed an anti-terrorism bill that gives the government sweeping powers to clamp down on organisations it thinks are carrying out terrorist activities, despite strong protests from opposition MPs. The bill imposes a mandatory death sentence for terrorists. Presiding judges will, however, have the discretion to impose lighter sentences on any person who aids, abets, finances or supports terrorism. Other clauses impose the death penalty on any person who publishes news or other materials that promote terrorism, causing strong opposition from journalists.
Execution notices are pinned to the prison gate once issued, then the condemned prisoner is informed and asked to make a will before being taken to the gallows on the scheduled day. Prison officers have described the procedure as a very traumatic experience even for the guards themselves, and in their recommendations to the Constitutional Review Commission in February 2003, requested that the death penalty be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment. Under laws in force in Uganda, a life sentence is 20 years and the inmates serve 16 years as a third of their term is usually subject to remission. The Prisons Department requested a change in the law so that life terms mean that convicts remain in prison until their death.
In July 2003, in response to appeals by human rights organisations for the abolition of the death penalty, President Yoweri Museveni said the death penalty must remain as a deterrent against indiscriminate killings. "I hear some people saying that the death sentence is inhuman. Very sorry. We shall shoot anybody who kills a human being," Museveni was reported as saying.
In December 2006 there were at least 566 death row inmates in Uganda. Many of them had been on death row for over 10 years and there were some which had been awaiting execution since the 1970’s. The suffering endured by the long wait was aggravated by the deplorable conditions of Luzira prison, where those awaiting death were incarcerated, and where 250 prisoners were held in spaces designed to hold a maximum of 60 people.
On June 10, 2005, Uganda's constitutional court struck down the imposition of mandatory death sentences but rejected an appeal by death-row inmates to completely outlaw capital punishment. In a narrow three-to-two decision, a five-judge panel at the country's second-highest court said laws that mandated the death penalty as punishment for certain serious crimes were unconstitutional and must be rewritten. The slim majority said various provisions on mandatory death sentencing were inconsistent with the constitution and interfered with the discretion of judges in dispensing justice. Death row prisoners can now seek redress in court to re-consider their cases, which was not possible before.
All five justices, however, rejected the inmates' argument that the death penalty was unconstitutional "because it is given by the laws as punishment after due process." More than 400 death row inmates brought their unprecedented appeal to the constitutional court in January, arguing that capital punishment amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which was prohibited by the constitution. The penalty is carried out by hanging in Uganda and the 417 prisoners also said that those sentenced to death often had to wait in torment for unreasonable lengths of time before execution. The justices did agree with the inmates that the implementation of death sentences should not be delayed as they had been in the past, in some cases for up to 20 years.
According to prison records, at least 377 people, including one woman, have been legally executed by hanging in Uganda since 1938. Under Idi Amin's 1971 to 1979 military dictatorship, 71 people were put to death following court decisions, although thousands more were killed extrajudicially during his rule.
Current President Yoweri Museveni's government hanged 28 people in one day in 1999, including a prominent politician in deposed president Milton Obote's regime, Hajji Musa Ssebirumbi.
Last executions were carried out on 3 March 2003, when Pte Richard Wigiri and then Ptes Kambacho Ssenyonjo and Alfred Okech were executed by firing squad after a military court found them guilty of two different murders.
On December 18, 2008 and December 21st, 2010, Uganda voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.