In 2003, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) established the World Day Against Death Penalty. Partners around the World unite on October 10th to promote awareness of the movement against the death penalty. Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, a trend that continues to this day. According to Amnesty International, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes in 1977. Forty years later, two-thirds of all countries (141) are now abolitionist in law or in practice.
However, an ongoing feature on the application of the death penalty is that it is inextricably linked to poverty. Social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who are sentenced to death for several reasons: defendants may lack resources (social and economic, but also political power) to defend themselves and will in some cases be discriminated against because of their social status
The main objective of the 2017 World Day is to raise public awareness of the reasons people living in poverty are at greater risk of the death penalty, and to thereby build support for abolition.
In support of the World day’s theme, FHRI analyzed affidavits from the landmark case Attorney General v. Susan Kigula and 417 Others and established socioeconomic profiles of those living on death row at the time the Supreme Court decided the case. These facts and figures are supported by interviews with men and women who continue to live in the condemned section today. The outcomes confirm findings from other parts of the world that indeed the poor are more susceptible to suffer the death sentence. The findings of the survey are detailed hereunder.
EU Heads of Mission with FHRI staff at Luzira Upper Prison following a solidarity visit to Death Row Inmates, 5th October 2017
FHRI strongly believes that the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and a degrading form of punishment as well as a violation of the right to life. It is against this premise that FHRI has, since 1993, led the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda. FHRI has done a lot of work towards the advancement of this cause including; producing feature articles, regular talk shows and press interviews, training workshops, meetings and seminars, and submission of memoranda to the Constitutional Review Commission that led to wide discussions about the issue. In 2000 FHRI held a meeting with other NGOs and government officials to discuss and exchange views on the death penalty in Uganda, including alternatives to the sentence. FHRI also produced a series of posters entitled “Stop Executions Now” in 1999 and a reprint in 2002, advocating for the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda. The campaign received a major setback in 1999, when on 29 April 1999, 28 prisoners at Luzira Prisoners were hanged after a defunct moratorium on all executions in Uganda since 1996. However, this only prompted FHRI to step up the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment in Uganda. Thus, in 2005, FHRI submitted a memorandum to the Constitutional Review Commission, where, amongst other issues, the constitutionality of abolishing the death penalty was discussed. Several issues were raised, which outlined why FHRI does not believe in capital punishment. Sadly, the constitutional amendment process saw the retention of the death penalty. In 2003, FHRI then filed a petition on behalf of 17 soldiers of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) who had been sentenced to death by the Unit Disciplinary Committee without any option for appeal. The petition was heard but consequently dismissed.
As a climax in 2003, FHRI filed a petition on behalf of all prisoners on death row challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty through a prominent legal team from Katende, Sempebwa & Co. Advocates, which had great impact on the advocacy about the death penalty in Uganda. FHRI led the formation of the Civil Society Coalition against the death penalty in Uganda (CADP) and further extended the death penalty campaign to East Africa leading to the formation of the East African Coalition against the death penalty currently chaired by FHRI. FHRI is also a member of the World Coalition against the death penalty and works closely with other partners and organisations advocating for and supporting abolition.