By Milton Olupot in Madrid, Spain
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has implored political leaders in countries that still have the death penalty in their justice systems, across the world to abolish it.
Moon, in a statement read at the official opening of the 5th World Conference against the death penalty on Friday said the campaign to eliminate the death penalty as a form of punishment has mainly faced resistance from political leaders.
“With political good will the campign to eliminate the death penalty can be made easier,” he said,
Over 2000 delegates including political leaders, civil society organisations, and individuals affected by the penalty are gathered for a four-day conference at Madrid, Spain to deliberate on strategies to bring the death penalty, issued by the courts to an end across the world.
Uganda is one of the countries that still retains death penalty. The death sentence is inherited from the colonial times. Uganda is represented at the Congress, by Prof. Fredrick Ssempebwa, Serere Woman MP Alice Alaso, The Uganda Human Rights Commission Chairman Medi Kaggwa and former death row convict Edward Mpagi, among others.
Uganda retains the death penalty for 28 civilian and military offences, however, no executions have been carried out since 1999 (civilians) and 2003 (military).
Although it appears there is an unofficial meratorium on executions in place, the government has routinely defended its right to maintain the death penalty in the statute books, and the judiciary continues to hand down death sentences.There are currently about 505 death row inmates in Uganda.
At the opening, retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a televised message, said countries should move fast to abolish the death sentence, as a punishment. “There is no justice in killing, in the name of justice. It is a ghastly punishment. We must bring an irreversible end to this doctrine of revenge,” he said.
He agreed with Ban Ki Moon that lack of political will to eliminate death penalty was slowing down the process. He however, expressed hope total elimination of the penalty across the world would be achieved. “Politicians will slow us down but rightiousness will prevail. It is not a pipe-dream but an absolute necessity,” he emphasised.
Norway Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Gry Larsen, at the opening said urged all countries to the experience of Europe. She said the death penalty is not a culture, and therefore its elimination can only be a decision of political leaders, to uphold humanity and human values.
Norway is one of the sponsors of the conference. The other countries are Spain, France and Switzerland.
The World Congress Against Death Penalty attracts people from the five continents comprising civil society members, lawyers, Judiciary, Inter-governmental organisations, and journalists.
The Congress focusses on the Universal abolition of the death penalty. Its report shows that in the last 40 years 70% of countries have abandoned the implementation of the penalty.
In 2012 at least 682 prisoners were executed in 21 countries, and 1722 people were sentenced to death in 58 countries.