Our Work

Evolve promotes access to justice by offering technical legal expertise in the most serious criminal cases. Our organisation works to try and ensure that capital inmates receive fair, speedy and impartial disposal of their cases. This involves assisting in the listing of cases before the court; ensuring that proper representation is available from an early stage; and working closely with representatives on case preparation, drafting and presentation.

We have assisted in over 500 capital cases to date.

Evolve builds the capacity of people and institutions by delivering training and mentoring interventions in areas of criminal law and procedure.

Evolve's lawyers have delivered training to judges, lawyers, defence advocates, and prosecutors in advance of the Kigula re-sentencing hearings; to students; to social workers; to the military; and to judges on sentencing issues at the 2018 Annual Judges' Conference.

 

Many defendants remain on remand or without access to the appellate courts for inordinate periods of time due to missing or incomplete case files.

Evolve works to track these files down. We conducted an extensive file tracing exercise for the Kigula re-sentencing hearings, and have continued to trace files in individual cases subsequently.

Evolve will shortly embark on a nationwide file tracing exercise to locate all missing files of the current 126 inmates on death-row at Luzira, in partnership with other stakeholders.

In 2013 Uganda introduced Sentencing Guidelines to promote a uniform approach to sentencing across the country. Despite this effort, inconsistencies in sentencing approach remains, so that similar cases inexplicably attract dissimilar sentences,  undermining public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Evolve is working in close partnership with the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, the Ugandan Judiciary, and other JLOS Stakeholders, to draft, deliver, and monitor the next generation of High Court, and Magistrates' Court Sentencing Guidelines. Between them these documents will ensure that a clear, fair, and predictable sentencing process is followed in all Ugandan courts. They will regulate the ranges of custodial sentences, to help judges calculate appropriate sentence lengths. They will also offer key clarification in areas like the death penalty, life sentencing, deduction of remand time, plea bargaining, and more.

The new High Court Sentencing Guidelines are anticipated to be completed in the coming months. In mid-2020, Evolve and the Judiciary will host a Sentencing Conference to inaugurate and sensitise stakeholders on the new guidelines, and to consult on their content before finalisation.

Evolve promotes awareness of international safeguards surrounding the death penalty, and works to ensure that constitutional and domestic safeguards are consistently applied in all Ugandan courts.

Evolve continues to engage in advocacy, and provide consultative technical advice, on the scope of the death penalty in Uganda.

Prior to the Kigula decision, all life sentences - which only applied to crimes which did not attract a mandatory death sentence - were understood to mean 20 years imprisonment. This left a large, and uncomfortable, gap between the most serious penalty, and the second most serious penalty, causing great legal uncertainty as a result.

In the 2011 case of Tigo Stephen v. Uganda, the Supreme Court of Uganda interpreted all life sentences as implying custody for the entirety of a convict's natural life.

The Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous (Amendment) Act 2019 now defines all types of life imprisonment as amounting to a maximum of 50 years imprisonment, albeit courts may set a lesser term, and/or may specify a minimum term after which a convict may qualify for parole release, or remission.

Evolve is working in close partnership with the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, and other JLOS stakeholders, to ensure that new High Court Guidelines implement this new act, and to sensitise on the wider implications of the new life sentencing regime.

For the most vulnerable inmates, suffering from severe mental illnesses, the usual procedure is that they are committed to prison for treatment, pending release at a later date. In theory, the Minister is supposed to make an order returning the inmate back to court, and enabling their case to progress once they have recovered.

In practice, no orders are ever made returning mentally ill inmates back to court. All inmates committed to prison for treatment remain there, even if they recovered many years ago.

Evolve is working at the highest levels to secure redress for these inmates. This will mean returning them to court, either for them to be released - in some cases after up to 20 years of imprisonment - or for them to be tried. Up to date psychiatric reports, and enquiries into treatment options in their home districts will have to be obtained and put before the court to enable release decisions to be made.