Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Church of Uganda prays for inmates at Luzira Upper Prison recently

Uganda has over 250 inmates on death row, Amnesty International has indicated in its 2017 global review of the death penalty published Thursday.

The report which show that almost 1000 inmates were executed globally indicates however, that Uganda did not carry any executions or death sentences in 2017 despite the existence of the law. The AI figures exclude China which regards executions as classified information.

Uganda falls under countries that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes like murder. Other countries in this category are Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Chad, China, Comoros, Cuba and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Others include Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, USA, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Uganda last carried out execution in 2003 but President Yoweri Museveni said in January he would order the hanging of prisoners on death row in a bid to curb rampant killings in the country.

Uganda’s neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania fall under countries that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder “but can be considered abolitionist in practice in that they have not executed anyone during the last 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions”. Rwanda abolished death sentence some years back.

In Kenya, the report says, at least 21 death sentences were imposed. No executions were carried out. In December the Supreme Court declared the mandatory imposition of death sentences in murder cases to be unconstitutional. The judgment meant that judges would have discretion; they would not have to automatically sentence to death a defendant convicted of murder.

Other countries in this category include. Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ghana, Grenada, Laos, Liberia, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco/Western Sahara, Myanmar, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation,109 Sierra Leone, South Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tonga, Tunisia, Zambia.

The report says Sub-Saharan Africa made great strides in the global fight to abolish the death penalty with a significant decrease in death sentences being imposed across the region, Amnesty International says in the report.

Guinea became the 20th state in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

“The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition. The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty.

“With governments in the region continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of the world’s remaining executing countries could not be starker.

“Now that 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, it is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books.”

“It is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books,” said AI’s Shetty.

The organization recorded a drop in the number of executing countries across sub-Saharan Africa, from five in 2016 to two in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions. However, with reports that Botswana and Sudan resumed executions in 2018, the organization highlighted that this must not overshadow the positive steps being taken by other countries across the region.

Elsewhere in Africa, Gambia signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moving to abolish the death penalty. The Gambian President established an official moratorium (temporary ban) on executions in February 2018.

Developments across sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 exemplified the positive trend recorded globally, with Amnesty International’s research pointing to a further decrease in the global use of the death penalty in 2017.

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39% from 2015 (when the organization reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

At least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries were recorded in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016. These figures do not include the thousands of death sentences and executions that Amnesty International believes were imposed and implemented in China, where figures remain classified as a state secret.

“The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. We know that by galvanizing the support of people worldwide, we can stand up to this cruel punishment and end the death penalty everywhere,” he adds.

The report only covers the judicial use of the death penalty and does not include figures for extrajudicial executions. Amnesty International says it only reports figures for which it can find reasonable confirmation, although the true figures for some countries are significantly higher.

“Some states intentionally conceal death penalty proceedings; others do not keep or make available data on the numbers of death sentences and executions,” it says.

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