The information minister says new amendments would enable the country pre-empt and respond better to the changing trends in terrorism.
By John Agaba
The Cabinet has approved the principles for amending the 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act, including a clause highlighting a mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of terrorism.
The information minister Rose Namayanja has said the new amendments would enable the country pre-empt and respond better to the changing trends in terrorism.
The clause, stipulating a mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of terrorism, will make the sentence the only option in the law that the judge can sentence the convicted person once the Act is passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.
Uganda is one of the few countries with the death penalty.
For capital offences like murder, rape, defilement, armed robbery and treason, depending on the judges’ discretion, the offender can be sentenced to death.
“Under the new Anti-Terrorism Law, once convicted, the only sentence a convict can get is death. It is going to be the punishment written in the law. The judge has no option, but to sentence the convict to death,” Moses Watasa, the commissioner for information, explained.
However, the law will not go without criticism. A mandatory death penalty is already a contentious topic in Uganda.
In 2005, the Constitutional Court, in a petition by Susan Kigula and 416 others against the Attorney General, declared the death sentence unconstitutional.
Part of their argument was that the mandatory death sentence did not provide the court with the opportunity to take into account any individual mitigating circumstances that might make the death penalty an inappropriately severe punishment.
“We are including these amendments in the Act because we want to mitigate the threat of terrorism. If courts challenge the decision, it is constitutional. But, we can always appeal.” Namayanja said.
“If someone is involved in terrorism acts where people are killed, then they deserve the death penalty,” she added.
Uganda has had its share of the impacts of terrorism.
On July 11, 2010, two suicide bombings at the Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala, Kampala left over 74 soccer fans dead and close to 100 others injured.
Other amendments in the Act include definition of the term “fund”, which the Cabinet wants to be harmonised with the International Convention on the Containing Financing for Terrorism, 1999, as assets of every kind, whether tangible or intangible, movable or immovable.
This component also encompasses the mode of acquisition/transfer of such assets, for instance legal documents’/instruments, whether in electronic or digital.
The documentation may include but not be limited to bank credits, travellers’ cheques, money orders, shares, securities, bonds, drafts and letters of credit.
Cabinet also wants the definition of the words “terrorism” and “Acts of Terrorism” to be adjusted to include the international aspects envisaged by the UN Convention Against Terrorism.
“Since the current Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted in 2002, the methods of planning, financing and execution of terrorist activities have become more sophisticated.” Namayanja said.
For instance, terrorists are increasingly taking advantage of advances in ICT to plan and communicate and execute heinous crimes.
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