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Prison congestion blamed on slow judicial process 

By Yvonne Watera, Andrew Ssenyonga

Added 21st June 2018 05:06 PM

City lawyer Ladislaus Lwakafuzi said there is a need to review bail guidelines to include a mandatory period for which suspects should be automatically granted bail if it elapses without trial.

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City lawyer Ladislaus Lwakafuzi said there is a need to review bail guidelines to include a mandatory period for which suspects should be automatically granted bail if it elapses without trial.

PIC: Her worship Agnes Nkonge, Meddie Kaggwa, and chairperson Human rights committee Member of Parliament Jova Kamateka, interacting during the dialogue on enhancing state accountability and ending impunity for human rights violations at Golf Course Hotel Kampala on June 19, 2018. (Credit Nancy Nanyonga)

 

CONGESTED PRISONS

The Uganda Prisons Services has observed that the slow judicial process and prosecution is the major cause of congestion in prisons countrywide.

The prisons publicist, Frank Baine, said until the criminal justice sector arise to its responsibilities, human rights violation, especially for prisoners will continue.

“Majority of capital offenders spend over five years on remand without trial after committal, yet we continue receiving more inmates on a daily basis,” he noted.

Baine made the remarks during a dialogue on enhancing the state of accountability and ending impunity for human rights violations organised by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.

He said congestion has always been in place simply because stakeholders in the justice sector, especially the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Police, have not lived up to their duties.

According to Baine they have over 54,000 inmates, with about 52% waiting for trial.

“Let prisoners be heard first, because some of them, especially with appeals are heard after completion of their punishment,” he said.

Baine advised the Police to always carry out investigations before making arrests, especially in minor cases.

Baine said most of the children caught up in conflict with the law, have either been locked up for theft, assault or for fighting among themselves.

“The environment which children are exposed to, especially the street children, leads them into committing crime,” he said.

City lawyer Ladislaus Lwakafuzi said there is a need to review bail guidelines to include a mandatory period for which suspects should be automatically granted bail if it elapses without trial.

“Pre-trial detainee is one of the biggest human right abuses in the justice system,” he said.

Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Erasmus Twaruhukwa said they still have a challenge in conducting investigations although they are trying to have investigations done before arrest.

Twaruhukwa, who is the director human rights and legal services at Police, said the constitutional mandated period of 48 hours to conduct investigations was not enough.

“It is very difficult to conclude investigations in capital and cross border cases, so we need more time,” he said.

The UHRC chairperson, Meddie Kaggwa, noted that when duty bearers become fully accountable on human rights, it enables the state to fulfill its obligations.

“Lack of accountability which often times stretches into impunity jeopardises the fulfillment of government obligation to guarantee the enjoyment t of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals,” he noted.

Kaggwa said they still face accountability challenges especially in accessing various state facilities.

“I can state that we have a challenge of payment of the human rights tribunal awards, where complainants take years to get paid their compensation if at all,” he said.

Dr. Busingye Kabumba a law lecturer at Makerere University said there is a need to strengthen sensitisation and awareness programmes to ensure mass sensitisation of the citizens on the laws and rights.

Prof. Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a history lecturer at Makerere University, said although the Government has made progressive steps by enacting laws that protect the right to access to justice, the legal and institutional framework has been impacted by a number of factors like corruption which have continued to undermine the right of citizens to access to justice.


 

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