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Proposed abolition of death penalty splits Parliament

MP Alex Ndeezi, an eye for an eye. PHOTO UGANDA PARLIAMENT MEDIA

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The renewed debate on the abolition of the death penalty has attracted mixed reactions amongst Members of Parliament. Although several legislators stood in support of the Death penalty, a section of others argue that convicts deserve an opportunity to reform.

The discussion came up as parliament debated the law revision (penalties in criminal matters) miscellaneous amendment bill 2015. The bill seeks to amend the Penal Code Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) Act, and the Trial on Indictment Act, by scrapping all references to the mandatory death penalty and restrict its application to most serious crimes.

The bill proposes to replace the death sentence with a life sentence and mandatory death sentence with the discretionary sentence and to remove the restriction on mitigation in the case of convictions that carry a death penalty.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee of Parliament had earlier suggested that the proposal on the abolition of the death penalty be subjected to a referendum. Similarly, Hellen Grace Asamo, a representative of persons with disabilities says that Parliament should not singlehandedly decide on the matter.

Soroti County MP Kenneth Esiagu says that scrapping the death penalty off Uganda’s law books is likely to increase cases of murder and related crimes since offenders will be guaranteed a lesser sentence. His argument is supported by Kacumbala County MP Patrick Isiagi who says that one who kills should even get a more severe sentence as a deterrent measure to end brutality against others.

Alex Ndeezi, another representative of Persons with disabilities used the biblical analogy of an eye for an eye to argue that scrapping the death penalty off the law books could be a blunder that Uganda will leave to regret.

But Mukono North MP Betty Nambooze says Killing is inhumane and so is the death penalty. Nambooze argues that people can totally reform after a jail term and that people should be given this opportunity to reform.

Mbale Municipality MP Jack Wamanga Wamai also believes that abolishing the death penalty will provide an opportunity for people to offenders to reform and reconcile with the victims of their actions. Wamanga says that it is better to improve the beef up the judicial system and transform prisons into correction centers.

Ayivu County MP Bernard Atiku says Ugandans should be consulted on this critical issue adding that matters concerning people’s lives require nationwide consultations.

President, Yoweri Museveni has in the past spoken in favor of the death penalty, saying it is necessary to deal with those involved in serious crimes. While opening the Judge’s annual conference early this year, Museveni said scrapping the death penalty would be a source of instability.

He promised to sanction the hanging of death row inmates drawing protests from human rights activists. Some of the crimes that can lead one to death row include among others murder, aggravated robbery, treason and kidnap with intent to murder, terrorism, and treachery among others.

There are at least 480 death row inmates in the country currently. The last civilian executions were in 1999 and 2006 for the military.

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