MPs Divided over Death Penalty

Legislators have disagreed on mandatory death penalty for murder but called for improved and thorough criminal investigations before a sentence is given.

The MPs were debating the Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend up to four laws to remove all references to the mandatory death penalty prescribed by the laws and to restrict the application of the sentence to “the most serious crimes” by converting the maximum penalties prescribed in those laws into imprisonment for life.

The Bill seeks to amend  the Penal Code Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2002; the Uganda Peoples Defence Act, 2005; and the Trial on Indictments Act. In these, death is prescribed to among others murder, aggravated robbery, rape, aggravated defilement, treason, kidnap with intent to murder, engaging in or carrying out terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism.

Hon. Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga) said the law caters for killing accidentally due to insanity adding that you cannot give a blank cheque that one can kill and rest in prison because crimes will increase in an unprecedented way.

“What we should strengthen is our investigative arms so that before a person is put to the death penalty they are found absolutely guilty. The law caters for accidental deaths but the intentional ones should be punished,” Ssekikubo noted.

Hon. Alex Ndeezi (NRM, PWD Central) said that Parliament should not send the wrong message that the death sentence should be abolished. He said opting for life imprisonment is an expense on the state.

“When you talk of life imprisonment it becomes an unjustified expense on the taxpayer,” Ndeezi said adding that, “life cannot be recovered so if you kill someone we cannot pay for your life.”

Hon. Patrick Opolot (NRM, Kachumbala) emphasised that a wrongdoer must be punished to the extent of the crime committed.

However, a number of legislators said the death penalty should be abolished and perpetrators of capital sentences be sentenced to life imprisonment so that they can reform. She said that it was inhumane to kill people by death sentence.

Hon. Betty Nambooze Bakireke (DP, Mukono Municipality) said many people have been convicted but later pardoned and have come out reformed.

“People like Susan Kigula acquired a degree in Law from Prison while others like Chris Rwakasisi were pardoned from the death penalty and are now presidential advisors,” she said, adding that people who spend a long time in the prison reform.

Although a number of MPs gave their views about the death penalty, the mover of the Bill, Hon. Medard Lubega (DP, Busiro East) explained that the Bill only sought to align the laws that dictate the penalty with the decision of the Supreme Court making death penalty discretionary.

“The Acts compel the court to impose a death penalty whereas the Constitution says that imposing that should be left to the discretion of the court depending on the merits of the case,” he said.

The Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, said “The Bill points out the current status quo which is that there is no mandatory death penalty therefore all offences which enforce the penalty do so erroneously.”
Oulanyah deferred debate on the Bill, instructing the MPs to harmonize their understanding of the Bill with the intention of the movers.

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