“Life imprisonment means being jailed for 20 years,” Constitutional Court declares

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On Friday December 2nd 2022, the Constitutional Court unanimously reduced the life sentence to only 20 years. In a breakthrough judgment, the court shifted from the previous decision by the Supreme Court in which life imprisonment was interpreted to mean spending the rest of your natural life in jail.

The ruling of the court follows a 2019 Constitutional court petition filed by about 569 inmates currently serving long-term sentences ranging between 21 to 73 years at Luzira prison.

The petitioners were led by Sunday Muhamudu, a 90-year-old who was sentenced to life imprisonment and has been in jail for over 20 years. Sunday and his colleagues in their petition claimed that the court sentences contravened Section 86 (2) of the Prisons Act 2006 that sought to be interpreted by the Court of competent jurisdiction.

They argued that the sentencing guidelines under legal notice no. 8 of 2013, deprive the convict of personal liberty and contravene article 28 (8) (12) of the 1995 Constitution (as amended).

A bench of five Justices of the Constitutional court unanimously interpreted life sentence or life imprisonment to mean 20 years in jail. Sentences above 20 years are unconstitutional, null and void.

“Sentences of between 21 and 73 years presented by the petitioners do not have any enabling legislation, prescribing such penalties is a breach of articles 28 (8) and 12 of the Constitution,” the judgement reads in part.

The Justices who presided over the petition include; Christopher Madrama Izama, Fredrick Egonda Ntende, Muzamiru Kibeedi, Monica Mugenyi and Christopher Gashirabake.

 

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