Activists Call for Detention Limits: 26,000 Prisoners Await Trial

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) while speaking at the launch of the report at Hotel Africana on Tuesday

Activists have called on government to take action towards reducing the length of pretrial detention following a report that revealed that 20% of committed prisoners in Uganda have spent 3 or more years in detention awaiting their trial.

Civil society and human rights defenders say this violates individual rights and contravenes the 60 day limit for remand guaranteed by the Constitution.

They also argue that the 26, ask 000 prisoners currently in pretrial detention have contributed to the congestion in the prison system which strains the country’s resources.

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On Tuesday, viagra approved the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) released a report titled ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’ highlighting the plight of pretrial detainees.

According to the findings in a 9 months study conducted in 15 districts across Uganda between June 2016 and. February 2017, cheap 3,614 (28%) inmates suspected with non-capital offences are in unlawful detention.

In addition, 628 (20%) individuals charged with capital offences are currently detained beyond the constitutional time limit.

“Among prisoners interviewed by FHRI, 92% indicated having spent more than 48 hours in police detention, suspects of capital and non-capital offences alike,” the report states.

“The average stay in police detention for suspects of capital offences interviewed was 12.7 days (305 hours) and for suspects of non-capital offences was 11.3 days (271 hours)”

Researchers attribute this trend to the absence of a time limit for pretrial detainees committed to High Court as well as discrepancies in the laws.

The report cites that despite the Constitutional Court nullifying them, provisions of the Trial on Indictments Act, Magistrates Courts Act and Prisons Act of 2006 which provide for longer pretrial detention time limits than the Constitution still remain in the statute books.

In 2015 alone, lengthy pretrial detention was the second highest complaint registered by the Uganda Human Rights Commission with 247 complaints representing 27% of the total complaints recorded.

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director FHRI while speaking at the launch of the report at Hotel Africana called on the justice system to introduce a time limit in which a trial should be concluded once a committal has taken place.

“Our Constitution stipulates that one is innocent until they are convicted. When we have prisons overcrowded due to lengthy unlawful detention, this questions the observance of human rights,” Sewanyana noted.

He said that overcrowding prisons deprives the country of financial resources which are spent on inmates and also affects productivity since these individuals would otherwise be engaging in economic activity.

Currently, there are an estimated 51,882 inmates in prisons across Uganda and 52% of these are pretrial detainees. The prisons system today operates at 312% of the required capacity which has financial implications on the national budget.

The cost of feeding one inmate annually amounts to Ushs 1.35 million implying that the country spends approximately Ushs 70 billion on feeding prisons inmates, all other basic requirements excluded.

The report suggests adoption of the Legal Aid Policy t extend legal aid to prisoners,  addressing the understaffing problem in the judiciary and strengthening of investigative capacity of the police.

It further proposes an enhancement in remuneration of state brief lawyers and an increase in the number of remand homes.


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