The Sanctity of Life before the Law as A Fundamental Human Right


By Paul Edotu


Paralegal, Cadre and Public Administrator


Reflecting on H.E, the President of Uganda Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni address at the opening of the new Law Year 2022, 4th Feb. 2022 at High Court Kampala.


The right to life is one of the supposedly inalienable human rights under our Constitution and under the International Law. The Law provides that, no person under the law shall be deprived of his or her right to life unless Decreed by a Court of competent Jurisdiction and after such sentence or Decree has been confirmed by the highest Court in the land.


I am sure many of my readers must have already faulted me for my use of the diction supposedly but at least up to this point you have understood that a Court of law has power to decree death of a person, not to use the most cruel words, the killing of a person who is guilty of committing a capital offence whose penalty under the law is death.


While opening the new law year 2022, H.E, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, listed what he referred to as the new minimum justice program for the new Law year. According to the President, the Courts should Pass a death Sentence for the following 5 serious Crimes; Murder, Rape, Defilement, Corruption, Stealing Property of those engaged in building the economy.


Uganda and Many legal jurisdictions in the world, had come to the realisation, that, the death sentence was barbarian, non-reformative and the rest of those arguments, so all along ,the Courts opted to pass, life sentence, where Murder convicts are imprisoned for  life. That day’s remarks by the President reinstates, the death sentence, the Hang man and all the other associated elements of the death sentence.

The following is a summary of the use of capital punishment by country. Globally, of the 195 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status, 108 countries have completely abolished it de jure for all crimes, 7 have abolished it for ordinary crimes (while maintaining it for special circumstances such as war crimes) and 26 are abolitionist in practice, while 54 countries retain capital punishment.


It’s this action which I have found paradoxical, in that while the same life the law refers to as sacred and non derogable, under the provisions of the same law there exist exemptions to the effect that the right to life can be terminated lawfully in pursuance of justice.


The question then is how else should it be done and the same objective and purpose of preservation of the sanctity of life and property is maintained?. This same thought, I believe came to the mind of H.E, the President when he said ,the Courts should refrain from passing life sentence in place of death sentence rather, the Courts should send a Stern warning to criminals by sentencing them to death in the first place and allow only the President to pardon them again in the legal framework termed as parole or prerogative of mercy.


What is not in doubt however that, the tone is, with which H.E, The President has used to open, the new law year, gives every stakeholder some assignment to take home, but it’s a reassuring, statement by the head of State that criminality shall not be tolerated in Democratic society.


The bench and the bar, now have a noble task of balancing, the Law, knowledge, Practice and what the President has termed as interests of his Constituents the people of Uganda from whom power and authority is derived from.


Judiciary’s mandate is found in Article 126 (1) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and it provides “Judicial Power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the Courts established under this Constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with the law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people.”

The above Article 126 I believe Echoes the provisions of Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which provides that; All power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution.


Clearly, the President joins the advocates of the death penalty whose argument is that the death penalty is good because it rids society of wrong and dangerous elements, guys who are out there to kill others, steal and do all sorts of havoc.


In Conclusion therefore, the President has asserted clearly the importance of administration of justice in line with aspirations of the people of Uganda and in general protections of life and property. Whether or not some laws will require amendment in the course of implementing this is now a matter for the judiciary and Parliament of Uganda.


Reflections by edotupaul21@gmail.com

Paralegal ,Cadre and Public Administrator.

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