IN a shocking twist of events, a group of Ugandans dwelling in Kampala have petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) seeking its support in advocating for the upholding of the death penalty.
According to documents seen by The Inspector, the petitioners are all residents of Kakungulu Zone in Kawempe Division, Kampala City. Records show that these delivered their shocking petition to the UHRC head offices last Tuesday and handed it over to the Commission Chairperson, Mariam Fauzat Wangadya.
In their petition, the pro-death penalty agitators including Ssebuliba Rahmah, Sebuliba Amiirah, Kwagala Mayi, and Bbosa Diphasi among others want the UHRC to use powers within its mandate to support their right to raise their voices in protest against the proposed removal of the death penalty from Uganda’s laws.
In backing their petition, the petitioners advance five reasons, which they say should be the basis upon which the UHRC should support them in their effort.
“The people are not satisfied with the removal of the death penalty because it is against the law. The law is very clear that when a person is convicted of murder, he should be sentenced to death,” the petition reads in part, with the petitioners adding that once government goes ahead with the illegality of scrapping the death penalty, it “will bring unrest in the country”.
The petitioners also claim that their campaign for the death penalty is biblical, which is also why the UHRC should help them exercise their right to be heard.
“Secondly, the bible is very clear on this issue because peter cut john’s ear and was ordered to replace it. This teaches us that an eye for an eye and those who kill by the sword will die by the sword. Why shouldn’t it be done to Ugandans murdering innocent people?” the petitioners argue.
Most prominently also, the petitioners told the Commission that the death penalty should be upheld in the laws of Uganda because repealing it will make Ugandans lose faith in the criminal justice system, judicial and law enforcement officers on top of encouraging and increasing case of mob justice in the Ugandan society.
“Removal of the death penalty will bring hatred towards law enforcement officers and the judges because people will feel they can’t dispense justice…it will encourage people to commit more killings since they know that they will be imprisoned and then return to their homes free again. As they are happy, the deceased’s family is meanwhile grieving for the loss of their loved one…” the petition further states.
Dilemma For UHRC
The pro-death penalty campaign presents a tricky dilemma for the UHRC given recent campaigns in which its donors especially the European Union as well as several civil society organisations have been courting it to join the movement advocating for the abolition of the death penalty.
It is worth noting that the anti-death penalty movement has gathered steam lately, especially ever since President Yoweri Museveni started advocating for death sentences to be issued by Ugandan judges, especially to capital offenders including rapists and murderers.
The president, expressing dismay at what he called unnecessary leniency by judges in handling such offenders, started his campaign around 2015. This was at the height of the Muslim clerics’ murders but he has since then been consistence with his support for the death penalty of murderers.
However, it is clear that each time the president has touched the subject, he has received backlash from anti-death penalty crusaders who believe the penalty is against the right to life.
Such crusaders are buoyed by the landmark court ruling of Constitutional Appeal No.3 of 2006 of Suzan Kigula, which literally halted death of convicts by hanging.
In this landmark case, Susan Kigula and 417 others successfully had the Supreme Court rule that various provisions of the laws of Uganda which prescribed a mandatory death sentence were inconsistent with the constitution insofar as they were contrary to the principles of equality before the law and of fair trial.
This explains why in a long time (since March 2003) there has been no execution of any condemned prisoner.
Such state of affairs now leaves the UHRC at crossroads, bearing in mind that as a neutral human rights promoter, it has to advance interests of the two antagonistic groups which are seeking its support in regard to the death penalty at the same time.