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Uganda high court rules death penalty constitutional

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Uganda [official website] on Wednesday ruled that the death penalty [JURIST news archive] is not prohibited by Uganda's constitution [text, PDF] because it does not constitute cruel and inhuman punishment. The decision comes on an appeal by over 400 inmates on death row of a 2005 ruling [JURIST report] of the Constitutional Court that held the death penalty was legal. The Supreme Court also upheld two other portions of the lower court ruling which held that laws mandating the death penalty are unconstitutional and that it is unlawful to keep an inmate on death row for longer than three years. The decision allows prisoners who have been on death row for longer than three years to have their sentences commuted to life in prison. Additionally the Supreme Court refused to ban death by hanging [Daily Monitor report], saying that parliament should pass laws governing methods of execution.

The death penalty is retained in several key African states, including (apart from Uganda) the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. In October, Amnesty International (AI) and the Nigerian Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP) [advocacy websites] condemned Nigeria's capital punishment practices in a joint report [text, PDF; JURIST report], claiming that death row inmates are being denied their rights to proper representation and appeal and calling for a moratorium on executions. The death penalty was most recently abolished in Burundi [government website, in French; JURIST news archive] after that country's parliament passed abolition laws [JURIST report] in November.

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