Last year, President Museveni ordered the release of all petty offenders from detention facilities.
COURT|CRIME|HUMAN RIGHTS|PETTY OFFENCES
KAMPALA - Activists want the Government to quickly scrap off legal provisions on petty offences from the law books, arguing that they target the vulnerable and marginalised members of society.
The offences listed under Sections 167 and 168 of the Penal Code Act (PCA) include being idle and disorderly, rogue and vagabond, loitering, hawking, drunkenness and being a public nuisance.
The acting chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Dr Amooti Katebalirwe, suggested that the offences be handled by local council courts, which will impose alternative forms of punishment, such as community service or limited fines.
Katebalirwe made the remarks last week, at the national stakeholder's conference held at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala. The conference was organised by the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), a nongovernmental organisation.
"The law targets poor members of the society, resulting in unsafe living conditions for them within our cities and other urban areas," Katebalirwe said.
Since President Yoweri Museveni directed legal provisions on being idle and disorderly to be repealed, arrests have stopped, but Katebalirwe said the existence of the provisions in the law books remains a threat.
Last year, President Museveni ordered the release of all petty offenders from detention facilities. He also directed the appropriate organs of the State to repeal the legal provisions on idle and disorderly, in order to remove them from the law books.
HRAPF executive director Dr Adrian Juuko said the laws on petty offences were used by the colonialists to oppress black people.
Juuko said petty offences encourage corruption and discrimination, leading to the diversion of resources that would have been used to address serious offences, such as murder.
Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine said over 60,000 inmates are in custody in different prisons across the country. Out of the total number, Baine said half of them are on remand.
Baine said 80% of the prison population are youth aged 25 to 32. He said petty offences constitute 30%.
The Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, said they get many complaints of arbitrary arrests and fabrication of evidence against suspects.
He warned that if the laws are repealed without getting clear reforms to replace them, cases of mob justice could increase.