It was in Hamurabi’s code where the law ruthlessly dealt with offenders by doing exactly what was done to the offended (retribution/ retaliation). He ruled as the sixth King of the First Babylonian Dynasty between c 1792 BC and c. 1750 BC.
Fortunately, it was the first written law to treat the accused as being innocent until proven guilty (History.com editors).
By recalling the Hamurabi’s Laws of murder for murder, and as being proposed in other capital offences, the government will not be securing the future of the citizens but their bitter past.
In dealing with humanity, we ought to know that criminality will always prevail. It is in the nature of humanity to sin, offend and be offended since all humanity roots from Adam, the first human to sin.
The big question is how to deal with sin, offence, breach of Law in this 21st Century and Grace Dispensation. In the old covenant, societies experienced cases of rape, bestiality, murder, theft and every form of corruption. The Hebrew Law examined well each case presented for example, in murder case, if the suspect committed the offense intentionally or unintentionally prior to executing punishment.
Whether or not intentional, the offender would be protected until a just punishment was administered. To protect the suspects from community and individual retaliation, places of safety (acquittal) were designated. They ran to places of acquittal because vengeance was never allowed (Numbers. 35:6, 11). In addition, acquittal places protected a suspect from being killed by the avengers before they stood trial (Numbers. 35:12).
Unlike the Francophone Laws, in which a person is presumed guilty until proven innocent, the Anglophone laws to which Uganda subscribes, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. While it is in the powers of the courts to decide whether to grant or not grant bail, a suspect has rights to protection as provided in Law. According to Wikipedia, “In law enforcement jargon, a suspect is a known person accused or suspected of committing a crime.
The distinction between suspect and perpetrator recognizes that the suspect is not known to have committed the offense, while the perpetrator—who may not yet have been suspected of the crime, and is thus not necessarily a suspect—is the one who did. The suspect may be a different person from the perpetrator, or there may have been no actual crime, which would mean there is no perpetrator.”
By arresting a suspect, inflicting body pains through torture, delaying trial under pretext of further investigation, is not only denial of justice but also abuse of one’s legal rights. There can be concocted cases that may not stand trial in courts of law but because the perpetrators, the ones in power have interest in them, anybody can be labeled with any offence. Many politicians in Uganda have been labelled and arrested for treason, a case which when found guilty, leads to death penalty. Unfortunately, none has ever been found guilty but their time, finances, reputation and other losses have been incurred.
Imagine having no bail in such a case!
In the New Testament era which is a dispensation of grace, Christ interpreted the law in light of contemporary realities from retaliation to fair justice. “You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other check also (Matthew 5:38-39). He discouraged society from opposing evil doers violently but overcome evil with good. Cf (Rom. 12:21).
Fair treatment of suspects breeds to transformation and also leads to further arrests of persons of interest in the case. If a suspect stays long in the cells before trial, the exhibits, witnesses and even others behind the crime may disappear or even die before trial. Depending on nature of offence, we are likely to see suspects in prison for years and if not hanged, then shall be acquitted for lack of evidence.
Drifting to the ancient laws is also breach of the international conventions to which Uganda has signed as a nation and is a party.
Gone are the days of inhumane treatment, retaliation and concocted crimes meant for selfish ambition. Uganda subscribes to a number of UN conventions on human rights and should first consider repudiating before proposing the no-bail and murder for murder Law.
The author is a Theologian and Educator
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