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Uganda: Highest Court Refuses to Outlaw Capital Punishment

(Jan. 29, 2009) It was reported on January 21, 2009, that the Ugandan Supreme Court rejected a petition brought by 418 inmates on death row to have capital punishment declared unconstitutional. The Court held that capital punishment is not inconsistent with the Ugandan Constitution. The Court, however, rejected an appeal by the government and upheld a Constitutional Court ruling that capital punishment is not mandatory and that Ugandan laws that impose mandatory capital punishment are void on that point. It also upheld another Constitutional Court ruling that it is unlawful to delay execution for over three years. The Supreme Court judgment stated, β€œ[a]t the end of a period of three years after the highest appellate court confirmed sentence, and if the president shall not have exercised his prerogative one way or the other, the death sentence shall be deemed commuted to life imprisonment without remission.” (Anne Mugia & Hillary Nsambu, Supreme Court Retains Death Penalty, THE NEW VISION, Jan. 21, 2009, available at

On the issue of whether execution by hanging causes a person more pain and suffering than other possible methods, the Court, by a majority of six to one, held that no sufficient evidence was brought to show that it does. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Egonda Ntende argued that death does not occur instantly in a hanging and that β€œthe person hanged often sweats, drools, the eyes bulge and he urinates and defecates,” although he is unable to react to the pain because the wrists and ankles are tied before execution. (Id.)