and Hillary Nsambu
AFTER ending their one-week strike yesterday, the judges now have to clear a backlog of over 2,000 cases that have accumulated countrywide.
The judges downed tools on Monday protesting the siege of the High Court by the Police on March 1 to re-arrest six suspects of the Peopleâ€™s Redemption Army, who had been granted bail.
According to Jack Wycliffe Kururagyire, the assistant commissioner in-charge of prisoners, 2,500 inmates missed out on their cases being heard this week.
He said the prisons department transports an average of 400 inmates per day to the different courts in the country.
â€œSince the judiciary went on strike, inmates have been complaining, especially those who were supposed to appear in the High Court. A session of the High Court was due to start in northern Uganda on the day the judges started the strike,â€ Kururagyire said.
He revealed that the 2,500 inmates were from 48 government prisons all over the country. This does not include those remanded in 174 local government prisons.
In Kampala, a High Court session at Nakawa, which was to start hearing 30 defilement cases, was put on hold. Justice Gideon Tinyinondi was to preside over the cases.
The Commercial Division had also lined up 20 cases to be heard by the Principal Judge, James Ogoola and two other judges.
The High Court Registrar, Flavia Anglin, yesterday declined to comment.
In a bid to empty the congested prisons, the Police on Thursday had started releasing minor offenders on bond. â€œWe had no alternative but to release them given that the courts are not operational,â€ said Police spokesman Edward Ochom.
â€œWe open files for each of the minor offenders, investigate the matter, and then release them on bond as we continue with investigations,â€ he added.
A total of 34 suspects were released in Arua. The district police chief, Julius Salube, said bond to â€œpetty criminalsâ€ was aimed at decongesting the cells.
â€œThis is a short-term arrangement which does not include suspects being held for cases of capital nature like: murder, rape, defilement and robbery,â€ he noted.
At Kabale police station, cells were over-crowded. â€œWe have close to 200 cases that have not been attended to by the chief magistrate and other three magistrates because of the strike,â€ said court office supervisor Milton Turyamubona yesterday.
Kabale district police commander Kadiri Asimwe said they were overwhelmed by the numbers. He expressed concern over the soaring food bill.
In Masaka, 20 suspects were waiting for the judges to resume work.
According to the district CID officer, Musa Kirenzi, they had 12 files ready for court, involving over 20 suspects.
He disclosed that they were minimising arrests and offering bond to suspects with minor offences.
â€œAs per now, we are doing investigations on simple cases like assault or threatening with violence so that we keep the files and arrest them immediately the courts resume work,â€ Kirenzi explained.
In Gulu, 93 suspects who were supposed to appear in a special High Court session this week, were left waiting. The Police had also resorted to releasing suspects with minor offences on police bond.
â€œWe are not releasing suspects with capital offences because we fear they can disappear or even be killed by the mobs,â€ the district police commander, Yasin Ndimwibo, said.
He added that the cells had been reserved for defilers, rapists, robbers and other capital offenders.
As the lawyers united in the Uganda Law Society start their strike on Monday, the backlog and the congestion in prisons will only worsen.
Additional reporting by Eddie Ssejjoba, Chris Ochowun, Frank Mugabi and Darius Magara
Judges to clear 2,500 cases