Thirty-five convicts on death row in Luzira Prisons could escape the gallows in a review of their sentences by the High Court. The Supreme Court ordered the review on the basis of its ruling in January this year in which it made the penalty for capital of
Thirty-five convicts on death row in Luzira Prisons could escape the gallows in a review of their sentences by the High Court.
The Supreme Court ordered the review on the basis of its ruling in January this year in which it made the penalty for capital offences, such as burglary, rape and murder, discretionary rather than automatic death by hanging.
The 35 people were sentenced by the High Court and the General Court Martial when the the death penalty was still a must for capital offences.
Seventeen of them were still in the process of appealing their sentences at the Supreme Court. The rest had lost their appeals.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court allowed the judges to use their discretion, depending on the circumstances, to offer alternative punishments for capital offenders.
The court also said once a death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court, the convicts should be executed within three years otherwise they serve life imprisonment.
â€œWhere after three years no decision has been made by the Executive, the death sentence shall be deemed commuted to life imprisonment,â€ it said.
However, sources at the Judiciary said commuting the death sentences may not be automatic unless the Supreme Court issues a specific order to that effect.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court recently sent back to the High Court 17 convicts who had asked it to overturn their conviction, to see if the lower court could give them alternative punishment.
The Supreme Court also sent back 18 other convicts who had appealed to it and lost. However, the judges did not state whether the convicts should hang, saying it would first wait for the outcome of a petition filed by prisoners, seeking to abolish the death sentence.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court recently wrote to the High Court and the Director of Public Prosecution to consider the 35 convicts for possible lighter sentences.
Among the 17, whose appeal had not been concluded, is Shadrack Magara. He was condemned for murder of the son of the former MP of Buhweju in Bushenyi district, Francis Bantariza.
Among the group of 18 convicts, whose sentence the Supreme Court upheld, is Janet Mureeba, a former Luzira Prisons employee. She was condemned for the murder of her pregnant co-wife and her two-year-old daughter in Ntinda, a posh Kampala suburb.
Also in this group is Susan Kigula, condemned for murdering her husband. She was the one who led 417 condemned prisoners to seek the abolition of the death sentence.
The Prisons spokesperson, Frank Baine, said there are 637 condemned prisoners, 21 of whom have lost the appeal process at the Supreme Court.
35 convicts escape hanging