Uganda Parliament approves death penalty for human sacrifice convicts

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Parliament has passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill, 2020, which provides the death penalty or life imprisonment for any person involved in human sacrifice.

The Ayivu County MP, Bernard Atiku tabled the private member’s Bill whose object is to provide for the offence of human sacrifice, fines and penalties on April 8th, 2021.   

Tabling the bill, Atiku explained the need for a separate law on human sacrifice and its criminalization. Apparently, Human sacrifice is not punished in its own right.

It is catered for under Cap 120 of the Penal Code Act, which provides for murder and trafficking in persons under the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2019.

Atiku says that human sacrifice has been on the rise, arguing that the available laws have failed to curb the evolving nature of the practice.  

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that considered the Bill concurred with Atiku’s argument. The committee report that was presented by the Busiki County MP, Paul Akamba recommended the approval of the bill with punitive measures against different human rights practices.

“Human sacrifice is a growing concern to law enforcement agencies, parents, child rights activists and the general public. Records from the Uganda Police Force show that human sacrifice cases have been steadily increasing for the last several years,” reads part of the committee report.

Legislators on the committee also argue that the few provisions under the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009 are brief and do not capture all possible scenarios, causes and elements surrounding the crime leaving too much room for ambiguity.  

The offence of Human Sacrifice 

The new law provides for an offence of human sacrifice stating that a person commits the offence of human sacrifice when he or she mutilates or causes the death of another person for the purpose of performing or furthering a ritual. A ritual under the legislation means a religious, traditional or cultural ceremony performed for the purpose of satisfying a belief.

A person who contravenes this provision commits the offence of human sacrifice and is liable, on conviction, to suffer death.      

The offence of Financing Human Sacrifice

The law criminalizes financing human sacrifice and provides that a person shall not finance another person, whether directly or indirectly, to commit the offence of human sacrifice. Contravention of this provision will also be liable, on conviction to suffer death. Also a person who attempts to commit the offence of human sacrifice or the offence of financing human sacrifice shall be liable on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

“A person is taken to attempt to commit the offence of human sacrifice or the financing of human sacrifice where a person begins to put his or her intention into execution and manifests his or her intention by some overt act, but does not fulfil his or her intention to such an extent as to commit the offence of human sacrifice or financing of human sacrifice,” further reads the provision.    

Prohibition of Harmful Practices Relating to Human Sacrifice

The law also provides that a person who spreads belief in human sacrifice for financial reward or gain professes to practice human sacrifice encourages any person to use human body parts in any ritual, treatment or other forms of healing and encourages a person to sacrifice a human being commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

Also, a person who unlawfully has in his or her possession of human body parts uses human body parts in medicine or concoction for sale, personal use or any other purpose and those assisting them and have in their possession an instrument used for or associated with human sacrifice commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life. During the debate, David Bahati, the State Minister of Finance for Planning noted that human sacrifice poses danger to the human race.

Michael Timuzigu, the Kajara County MP said that having a law that specifically targets human sacrifice is very important because human beings have a right to life.

Margaret Baba Diri, the Koboko Woman MP said that human sacrifice has become too common with those carrying it thinking that the act will make them rich. She says that the law will help deter the sacrifice of innocent people like children and albinos among others.  

Jessica Ababiku, the Adjumani Woman MP suggested that every person engaged in the act of human sacrifice should get the ultimate penalty of death once found guilty so that it acts as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.    

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga says that the new piece of legislation provides an opportunity and avenue for justice for victims of human sacrifice.  

In 2008, the entire country was gripped with shock following the gruesome murder of Joseph Kasirye after his torso was found in a swamp without genitals. Several people businessman Kato Kajubi, a traditional practitioner, Umar Kateregga and his wife, Mariam Nabukeera were arrested in connection to the murder.

Kateregga and his wife, Nabukeera later confessed to having killed the minor and cut off his private parts after being paid by Kajubi.   The trio was arraigned in court before Kateregga and his wife went on to testify on behalf of the state, which saw them walk away scot-free.

In the first hearing, Kajubi was acquitted of murder. He was re-arrested and convicted for the same offence in 2012 for a retrial by the High Court.  


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