Lecture | Studium Generale
Freedom Lecture: Fighting the Death Penalty and Reviewing Life Imprisonment
- Wednesday 20 October 2021
2511 DP The Hague
A joint lecture by Susan Kigula and Marieke Liem, in the context of the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 31/10/2021.
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Susan Kigula - Changing the Ugandan Legal System From Behind Bars
Until 2009, Uganda had a mandatory death sentence - regardless of circumstances, people were sentenced to death for particular crimes. This was also the case for Susan Kigula, who was accused of the murder of her partner Constantine Sseremba. The court case hinged on the testimony of her three-year-old stepson. Susan Kigula herself did not confess to the murder, but since she could not afford a lawyer, her account of the events was not taken into consideration. She was sentenced to death and imprisoned in Luzira Women’s Prison to await her execution. Like other (often wrongfully accused) Ugandan prisoners on death row, Kigula spent years living in uncertainty and fear.
In her lecture, Susan Kigula will share how she became the driving force bringing change to this policy. Having managed to get the means to educate herself and other inmates, from behind bars she challenged the Ugandan legal system in the 2009 case Attorney General v Susan Kigula & 417 Ors. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Uganda refused to abolish the death penalty. However, the judges did rule that the death penalty would no longer be mandatory. They also ruled that people could no longer be kept on death row indefinitely: now, if convicts are not executed in three years, the sentence is automatically turned into life imprisonment. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled that convicts could go back to the High Court for retrial. In that respect, the case strengthened Kigula's hope for justice.
Two years after the lawsuit, Kigula became the first female inmate studying law at the University of London. In the lecture, she will discuss her studies, and how after having been released, she still offers legal aid to indigent defendants. What’s more: working with Justice Defenders, Kigula is now in the process of establishing the world’s first prison-based legal college and law firm, with the goal to have prisoner lawyers represent peers unable to afford legal help.
Marieke Liem - After Life Imprisonment
Presently, there are roughly 500,000 persons serving formal life sentences around the world. Whilst many have been sentenced to life without the possibility of release, some of these prisoners serving “life” will be released back into society. But what becomes of those people who re-enter the everyday world after serving life in prison? In this presentation, Marieke Liem examines the experiences of lifers after their release. Reflecting on roadblocks to re-entry, including challenges of employment, interpersonal relationships, and residual effects of imprisonment, she reconsiders life beyond prison.
Discussion and Q&A
After their talks, Susan Kigula and Marieke Liem will engage in a discussion with each other, and take questions from the audience.